Director: Rob Marshall ( Chicago) Stars: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Geoffrey Rush, Kevin McNally Washed up all over again
WORLD cinema needs another Pirates of the Caribbean about as much as Australian TV needs its very own The Amazing Race.
Public demand ain’t exactly on the up and up. But if your crappiness-detection system is down, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides will find you, force your wallet open and flee with the money – just like the blusteriest blockbusters of the US summer always do.
This fourth episode is being pitched as a reboot of the franchise. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The only notable change is that the two dullest stars in the POTC galaxy – Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom – have been snuffed out for good.
Otherwise, it’s business as wooz-ual for main man Johnny Depp, hamming it up beyond the hilt as the one, the only Captain Jack Sparrow.
The need-to-know on the newrecruit front starts and ends with Ian McShane and Penelope Cruz, playing the infamous plunderer Blackbeard and his babylicious daughter Angelica respectively.
Regulars still in the mix include Geoffrey Rush ( below) as long-time Sparrow nemesis Barbossa and Kevin McNally as his mutton-chopped sidekick Gibbs. Oh, and once again Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards swaggers off with a scene to call his own as Sparrow’s dad.
Just like the last two instalments, the plotting here invariably goes everywhere at once and nowhere in particular.
After a short opening-act stop in old London town – where we learn Jack and Angelica ( above) once had a thing going on – the action shifts to the high seas, where everyone has set sail in search of the fabled Fountain of Youth.
Barbossa is commanding the fleet of the British King. The Spanish Armada has also taken an interest.
Meanwhile, Blackbeard and Angelica are steering a vessel crewed by some curiously well-behaved zombie sailors.
Sparrow has been forced to throw in his lot with the Blackbeard gang, who half-heartedly fight among themselves for almost 90 minutes of this long, long 135-minute slog.
When the Fountain of Youth finally appears on the horizon, a bevy of bloodthirsty vampire mermaids appears to block the way.
Zombie sailors? Vampire mermaids? What next? Werewolf whales? Who writes this stuff? Don’t ask Depp. He’s gone on record as saying he didn’t even bother reading the screenplay until he absolutely had to.
There’s not much more that can be said about this loud, lavishly empty live-action cartoon. Most cinemas are screening it in 3D.
Depp and Cruz share a wonky, disconnected chemistry, not unlike two people who have spiked each other’s drinks. And in case you are wondering, a vampire mermaid will beat a zombie sailor in a fight nine times out of 10.