Reinventing the franchise for this fourth installment, that swaggering, swashbuckling rogue Jack Sparrow finds romance as he searches not only for his lost ship, the Black Pearl, but also for the fabled Fountain of Youth.
Stranded in London without a ship to command, impetuous, intrepid Sparrow (charismatic Johnny Depp) crosses swords with a sexy, vengeful spitfire named Angelica (vivacious Penelope Cruz), who cleverly hijacks him aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge under the command of her evil father, the legendary, ferociously unpredictable pirate Blackbeard (menacing Ian McShane), with his creepy crew of ill-tempered zombies. The Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon has discovered the Fountain of Youth and every seaworthy ship is frantically racing to claim it, including Sparrow’s calculating nemesis, now peg-legged Capt. Hector Barbossa (manipulative Geoffrey Rush), who has strategically allied himself as a pompous privateer with England’s King George.
“It’s not the destination as much as the journey,” Sparrow says as, en route, he and his cheeky comrade Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin R. McNally) befriend a zealous missionary (Sam Clafin) and an enigmatic mermaid (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), part of an enchanted, dangerous clan determined to lure unsuspecting sailors to a watery doom. And they become the new star-crossed lovers.
Comedy reigns, particularly when iconic musician Keith Richards, returning in a cameo as Sparrow’s buccaneer father, answers his son’s question as to whether he’s ever seen the Fountain of Youth.
Credit creative director Rob Marshall (“Chicago,” “Nine”), producer Jerry Bruckheimer and screenwriters Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio, inspired by Tim Powers’ novel “One Stranger Tides,” for ingeniously rescuing the soggy, convoluted storyline and discarding the Orlando Bloom/Keira Knightley subplot that waterlogged the two previous installments. Filmed in the jungles of Hawaii and Puerto Rico and vigorously propelled by Hans Zimmer’s score, this riotous, CG-enhanced, high-seas sequel is spell-binding, making sumptuous use of the 3D process, particularly in the perilous chase sequences.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is an adventurous, action-packed 8, splashing with spectacular fun for the entire family.