Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Bleh. Stop it. Just stop it. Don’t do this anymore. You’re done. You did your movie, and then you absurdly stretched it into a trilogy, and it got all meta-referential when you brought in the guy that Johnny Depp was impersonating to play Jack Sparrow’s father, and yes, fine, we all had a good laugh about that. Then it was over. The trilogy ended. We put up with it for as long as we did because we were promised it would ONLY be a trilogy. Then we went on with our lives.

But apparently you didn’t, because now you have returned with a FOURTH movie. This was not the arrangement! We have had our fill, thank you. We are satiated. It is as though you left the stage to appreciative but weary applause, waited until the lights had come up and we were filing out the door, then bounded back on to the stage for another encore. “Hey, everyone!” you said cheerfully. “We’ve got more! Isn’t that great? Eh?? Eh??” And we all said, “Ugh, really?” as we trudged back to our seats and began to wonder why we ever liked you in the first place.

Oh, and this one’s in 3D? Of course it is. [EXPLETIVE] you, movie. [EXPLETIVE] you right in the [EXPLETIVE].

So this time everybody’s looking for the Fountain of Youth. Sure, why not? That seems like something pirates would do. A lady pirate named Angelica (Penelope Cruz), a former lover of Jack Sparrow’s, is searching for it, along with her father, the evil and cruel pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane). Jack doesn’t have any particular motivation for getting involved other than a mild interest in helping Angelica, whom he feels guilty for mistreating years ago. (That motivation doesn’t come through very clearly in the movie, though. I only knew it because the article in Entertainment Weekly said it.)

Also looking for the F. of Y. is Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), sailing on behalf of England’s King George, who is portrayed by Richard Griffiths as a porcine dandy. (To be fair, any character played by Richard Griffiths is bound to come across as a porcine dandy.) Do you remember Barbossa? He used to be a ghost, I think, and he is Jack Sparrow’s sworn enemy, probably. It’s a pleasure to see Geoffrey Rush in just about anything, but he’s wasted here, and given hardly any time to interact with Depp.

The Spanish are also keen on finding the F. of Y., but the movie forgets about them most of the time, remembering them only when it is convenient to do so.

So. What else you got, movie? Lots of sword-fighting and swashbuckling and random supernatural stuff? Just like before, only less enthusiastic this time? Like you’re just going through the motions? Yeah. I hear that.

You got rid of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, though! Good for you! They were dead weight. Oh, but I see you’ve replaced them different dead weight. Hmm. Well, I guess it is important to rotate your dead weight. Now we have a boring missionary named Philip (Sam Claflin), a prisoner on Blackbeard’s ship, who falls in love with Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), who is a mermaid. You’d think a mermaid would almost automatically be interesting, but nope, she’s boring, just like her boring missionary boyfriend.

There are mermaids here, by the way, because you can’t use the rejuvenating powers of the F. of Y. without a mermaid’s tears. DUH.

Also, Blackbeard’s ship is run by zombies. That fact doesn’t serve any purpose in the story, but I felt like I should mention it because obviously someone went to a lot of trouble to include it.

Ian McShane is a fine choice to play Blackbeard, and he puts his fearsome diction and dark, malevolent eyes to good use at first. But before long, he, too, is swallowed up in the frenzied, mindless action that constitutes the bulk of the film. Rob Marshall (“Chicago,” “Nine”), replacing Gore Verbinski as director, doesn’t bother with levels. He doesn’t do “ups” and “downs.” He starts in high gear and stays there — which, after a while, is the same as being in low gear. It’s senseless, dizzying, and exhausting.

And what about our old friend Captain Jack Sparrow? It’s astonishing to see how far this character has fallen since he first staggered into our hearts. Now he’s just shufflin’ through another adventure, slurring perfunctory one-liners like a sitcom character halfheartedly spewing catchphrases. This is the fourth movie; it feels like the twentieth.

Come on, movie. Nobody wants this. Cut it out. Stop now, while you still have a shred of dignity.

(Editor’s note: I think this is a review of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” but it is hard to tell.)

C- (2 hrs., 17 min.; PG-13, swashbuckling and sword-fighting and a wee bit of innuendo.)