Rejuvenated ‘Pirates’ gains new buoyancy
In 2007, the joy ride known as the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise ran aground with “At World’s End.”Visually ambitious, that bizarro sequel lost its bearings when it sent Capt. Jack Sparrow to a barren, topsy-turvy realm. Seeming to call forth the spirit of star Johnny Depp’s friend Hunter S. Thompson, it was gonzo and twisted but not particularly entertaining.Although this newest installment is dubbed “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” it’s less trippy – and more old-fashioned fun.”Pirates” has never been as inspired as the franchise’s first adventure, and “On Stranger Tides” doesn’t alter this fact. But the ship’s course has been righted. Thar be treasures here.Capt. Sparrow and friends’ race to find the Fountain of Youth gleefully docks on the lighter end of the pirate continuum, territory also occupied by Somalia’s high-seas marauders and the Denver Museum of Nature & Sciences’s smart exhibition “Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship” (through Aug. 21).The new “Pirates” captain is Rob Marshall, director of the on-screen musicals “Chicago” and “Nine,” and the drama “Memoirs of a Geisha.” Gone is Gore Verbinski, who helmed the first three films (and directed Depp in the deranged and wonderful “Rango”).Depp reminds us why Jack Sparrow has become one of the big screen’s indelible creations. His pirate is a fellow of double takes and old-school physical comedy: He trips, he teeters, he hangs from rafters, banners, chandeliers. His sloshy walk, his slurry speech, his luck and pluck are all familiar, but amusing once again.With the conclusion of the trilogy’s Elizabeth Swann/Will Turner love story – and the loss of Keira Knightley’s set mouth and verve – franchise screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio needed a new and feisty female lead.Penelope Cruz plays Angelica, daughter of Blackbeard and a pirate in her own right. She and Jack share a history. Though the pair are fun when crossing swords, they don’t ignite the screwball blaze until a teasing finale. That may be because Depp is so good doing the drag performance that is the Jack Sparrow Show, he completes himself.Of course, the whole popcorn enterprise invites a kind of “I’m a Thespian!” overacting. Brit Richard Griffiths has royally-poly fun as King George when he states, seemingly with marbles in his maw, that he wants to beat Spain’s “melancholy monarch” to the Fountain of Youth.Geoffrey Rush returns with plenty of arggh and bluster as the pirate Hector Barbossa. He’s lost a leg and the beloved ship, the Black Pearl. He’s out for revenge and will do the dastardly thing of becoming a legit, government-backed “privateer” if need be.Ian McShane gives Blackbeard as much menace as a goofball romp can handle.There’s also a subplot that teases star- crossed romance and religious faith by introducing a mermaid (lovely French actress Astrid Bergs-Frisbey) to a missionary (Sam Claflin).Just a bit over two hours, “On Stranger Tides” feels longer than it needs to be. A former dancer himself, director Marshall has likened the action sequences to choreography. If so, this film’s got too many dance numbers. Some are rollicking and amusing (Sparrow’s flight from the king’s guard, for one).Even so, the best musicals never lose the story’s emotional thread when they break into song and dance. Neither should action flicks.So thank the night-sky stars for Angelica. After a particularly extended series of action mayhem, she reminds Jack – and dazzled or bewildered audiences – of their objectives: two silver chalices, a mermaid’s tear and then onward to the Fountain of Youth. Oh yeah, that’s right.Film critic Lisa Kennedy: 303-954-1567 or email@example.com; also on blogs.denverpost.com/madmoviegoer
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