Livin’ Aqua de Vida

23 May

You always hope it’s great when beloved characters return to the big screen after an absence.

Remember how good it felt to see Woody and Buzz again last summer in Toy Story 3?

Well, when Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow — excuse me, Captain Jack Sparrow — reappears on screen at the start of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the first Pirates film in four years, you can’t help but smile.

His creation is so full of whimsy, style, and swagger, and while Depp’s performances in the series have always been fun, the movies themselves have been hit and miss, with none able to recapture the delight of the first, The Curse of the Black Pearl.

So the good news right up front is that On Stranger Tides is more in line with At World’s End, the third film, than it is with Dead Man’s Chest.

This latest film is less bloated, less filled with special effects (obvious ones, anyway, like characters with fish faces), and more fun and exciting than these films probably should be at this point.

Credit, yes, Depp for another enjoyable performance, but also credit the creative team (led by producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Rob Marshall, and screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio) for making the decision to streamline the story and excise distractions like Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley’s Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann — but not Geoffrey Rush’s still-fun Captain Barbossa.

In Stranger Tides, Captain Jack goes in search of the Fountain of Youth. Along the way, he reunites with Angelica (Penélope Cruz), his former lover and the daughter of the ruthless pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane), who forces Jack to join his crew.

Also on the quest are the Spanish and British monarchies, with Barbossa heading up the latter’s efforts. And yes, there are mermaids thrown in too.

Marshall shows a competency for directing a big film of this type, with one thrilling sword fight or chase after another.

The action moves swiftly, and the film clocks in at a long but not overly-so two hours and 20 minutes.

The screenplay isn’t challenging, but it’s not silly either, and Depp’s now-routine schtick doesn’t feel tired. In fact, with new characters to play off, and a new obstacle to surmount (i.e., his romantic feelings for Angelica), he gets some welcome brand-new material.

Oh, and the film’s in 3D too — and IMAX, if you wish, as I did. Those effects largely are there to add depth to the pictures, but there are some fun, though gratuitous, effects.

Still, it’s the familiar elements that make Stranger Tides worth seeing: The chemistry between Depp and Rush, the rousing theme and score by Hans Zimmer, the gorgeous cinematography, exciting action scenes, the return of Keith Richards as Jack’s father, and Johnny Depp’s performance.

Fork over your $10 and officially kick off your summer. Stranger Tides is a great time at the movies.

It made me say, “Yo ho!” so I’m giving it a strong B.

One Response to “Livin’ Aqua de Vida”


  1. Welcome to Pi’s Ark « Martin's Musings - November 20, 2012

    […] by the unnecessary addition of effects in so many movies in recent years (The Avengers and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, for example), and the gratuitous effects used in cheesy movies like Piranha […]

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