Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Yep, this dependable money-printing machine is back for the fourth time. This time it's missing Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, but sporting a welcome new face or two.

Here's who's who:
  • Johnny Depp ("Rango") is the iconic Captain Jack Sparrow, still cowardly and resourceful, manipulated into a quest for the Fountain of Youth. This time we discover he has a past.
  • Keith Richards ("Pirates" franchise) appropriately returns once again as Captain Teague, Jack's father. I say appropriate because Depp patterned his character after the famous rock star.
  • Geoffrey Rush ("The King's Speech") continues as Barbossa, still locked in a never-ending rivalry with Sparrow. This time he's affiliated with the British crown.
  • Penélope Cruz ("Volver") shares a past with Depp: he derailed her plan to become a nun. She is Blackbeard's daughter Angelica, and can swing a sword with the best of them.
  • Ian McShane ("Deadwood") is Blackbeard, scourge of the high seas. He wants the map to the Fountain of Youth. McShane feels a good story always needs a good villain and he certainly fills that bill.
  • Sam Claflin ("Pillars of the Earth") is a saintly missionary. Sparrow accepts his neutrality simply as a "requirement for the clergy."
  • Dame Judi Dench has a don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-her cameo with the funniest line.
Three groups compete in the quest for the Fountain of Youth: The Spanish, the English, the pirates. Even THEY have trouble figuring out who to fight during some of those mélées.

Sparrow is brimming with throwaway lines, e.g., "Did you see what I just did? Good, 'cause I shan't do it again," and Depp has brought him to us with a consistent accent and vocal quality since the beginning. He's good. (But why must he uglify himself?!)

This is a mindless romp full of action, color and good humor...not as gruesome as the previous two had become. To me, that is GOOD news.

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Here is a link to a preview:
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