Hollywood Product: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 

The fourth installment in the Pirates franchise struggles to keep its head above water

Captain Jack (Johnny Depp) and Angelica (Penélope Cruz) in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Peter Mountain/© Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Captain Jack (Johnny Depp) and Angelica (Penélope Cruz) in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

GENRE: Arrrr you tired of pirates yet?

THE PITCH: Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) leads a race to the Fountain of Youth between his old nemesis Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), swashbuckling hottie Angelica (Penélope Cruz), fearsome, magical Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and some random Spanish guys.

MONEY SHOTS: Blackbeard's ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, literally breathes fire. Blackbeard commands the ship's rigging like tentacles. A suspenseful, well-executed sequence with sailors in a rowboat encountering alluring but deadly mermaids.

NOT-ENOUGH-MONEY SHOTS: Angelica picks up a hilariously fake, insubstantial-looking CGI snake in a swamp. Jack drops coconuts on Spanish troops and ties a bunch of them up with a length of rope, like the movie's turned into "Gilligan's Island."

BEST LINE: "Does this face look like it's been to the Fountain of Youth?" asks an iconic celebrity with a famous relationship to Jack Sparrow.

WORST LINE: "I want a father, Jack. I haven't had one," Angelica declares, explaining her apparently sincere attachment to Blackbeard. At one point, Jack says to King George II, "With your permission, Your Hiney."

RINGERS: With Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley out of the picture, On Stranger Tides introduces a new "good" couple in Sam Claflin and the wonderfully named Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey as, respectively, an underwritten missionary and a captive mermaid.

FASHION STATEMENTS: Hats and shoes with big buckles. Poodle-esque wigs on dudes. Lit fuses in Blackbeard's black beard — which the real pirate apparently did to freak out his enemies. The missionary gives his shirt to the mermaid and spends the rest of the film with his vest over his impressively manscaped torso.

CAMEOS: Richard Griffiths (aka Harry Potter's Uncle Vernon) hams it up as King George II. Judi Dench (aka James Bond's M) has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it encounter with Jack in a carriage. Stephen Graham (aka Al Capone on "Boardwalk Empire") provides most of the comic relief as a swabbie named Scrum. The head Spaniard looks kind of like Ice-T, but isn't.

HOW'S THE 3-D? Not as awful or distracting as Clash of the Titans or Thor, with a cheerful willingness to thrust swords, barrels, flaming coals and skeletal fingers in the audience's face. Not really worth the added ticket price, though.

STAY THROUGH THE CREDITS? There's a little stinger at the end that hints at a plot point for the two sequels supposedly in development. Don't put your bladder under undue strain to wait for it, though.

BETTER THAN THE OTHERS? No. The first installment, The Curse of the Black Pearl, had better acting and snappier dialogue than anyone could expect from an adaptation of a theme park ride. For the second two, director Gore Verbinski delivered genuinely amazing visual effects to distract from the plot's messiness. The fourth one has all the incoherence but precious little of the eye candy.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Chicago director Rob Marshall takes the helm for another loud, wearying romp on the high seas. McShane makes a reliably entertaining bad guy, but On Stranger Tides struggles to establish Penelope Cruz as Jack's abiding love interest, but they don't seem to particularly like or trust each other. The franchise should drop anchor now before the Tides get any lower.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Rated PG-13 · 137 min. · 2011
Staff Rating:
Official Site: Disney.com/Pirates
Director: Rob Marshall
Writer: Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Cast: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Kevin R. McNally, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Sam Claflin and Geoffrey Rush
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides An IMAX 3D Experience
Rated PG-13 · 137 min. · 2011
Staff Rating:
Official Site: Disney.com/Pirates
Director: Rob Marshall
Writer: Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Cast: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Kevin R. McNally, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Sam Claflin and Geoffrey Rush

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