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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

‘Pirates 4’ ratings drop anchor

As a loyal fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, I had high hopes for the fourth installment, eager to witness Jack Sparrow outwit his next opponent.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is based on one of those mythological movie quests—in this case, the search for the Fountain of Youth. It would seem a fitting backdrop for a blockbuster franchise treading on thin ice by putting out its fourth chapter. After all, isn’t it the dream of every big-budget sequel to seem as fresh and new as the one before it, and to ensure that the franchise itself stays forever youthful? A sequel like “On Stranger Tides,” however, feels forced on the audience.

The entire film consists of Sparrow traveling aboard the run-down death ship of the 
sinister pirate Blackbeard to reach the island that houses the legendary fountain. Meanwhile, the peg-legged Barbossa, working for King George, heads for the same destination and gives Sparrow one more thing to worry about.

Early on, a group of British redcoats plucks Jack Sparrow from a coach and puts him in an ornate sitting room. While waiting to be interrogated, Captain Jack jumps forward, a few inches at a time, and tries to grab the cream puff sitting on the table. That’s a classic Jack Sparrow moment: His life hangs in the balance, and all he cares about is the sweet pastry in front of him.

That’s about where the fun ends, though. The movie runs into the same problems that plagued its second and third outings—miserably verbose dialogue, an uninteresting subplot and pointless supporting characters. And everyone knows that people only see these movies because of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley; it’s just not the same without them.

Don’t get me wrong, this movie does have a few humorous moments. While a fifth and sixth movie are planned, I hope the screenwriters improve on what they’ve got here.

What no one seemed to remember to pack was the fun and wit that enlivened the former films and helped put the wind in their … sales. Depp reels and staggers expertly; a minor plot point finds his old ship in a bottle, which is appropriate given the state of its captain. But he is given no chance to strike sparks with Cruz’s character, and little opportunity by returning writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio for any verbal capering.

The rest of the pirates, meanwhile, are forced to speak in stilted, brigand-ese. “We be sailing at dawn.” “You be coming with us.” I be bored to mermaids’ tears.

Overall, the movie lacks eventful twists and surprises. “On Stranger Tides” is so straightforward yet plodding that it puts the “old” back in old-fashioned entertainment.

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