Avast me hearties ... but is Cap­tain Jack all at sea? Read our re­view.

Johnny Depp re­turns for swash­buck­ling ad­ven­ture

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JOHNNY Depp’s im­pres­sive re­sume is lit­tered with odd­ball char­ac­ters. These range from the heart­break­ing ti­tle role in Ed­ward Scis­sorhands and iconic B-movie di­rec­tor Ed Wood to a creep­ily child­like Willy Wonka and the mad­dest Hat­ter ever to grace Alice’s Won­der­land. Yet of all these eye-catch­ing roles, he is prob­a­bly best known as salty seadog Jack Spar­row in the Pi­rates Of The Caribbean films. Cer­tainly, it was the first role to earn him a long over­due Os­car nom­i­na­tion as Best Ac­tor. Or­lando Bloom and Keira Knight­ley may have sailed off into the sun­set for the fourth in­stal­ment but Depp hoists the main­sail once again as the most fey pi­rate to sail the seven seas. Alas, if the third chap­ter of the se­ries, At World’s End, was a wa­ter-logged bore, On Stranger Tides is moored in sim­i­lar shal­lows. The ad­ven­ture, di­rected by Rob Mar­shall, al­most cap­sizes dur­ing an un­event­ful mid­dle sec­tion that should have been cut down to take the run­ning time be­low two hours. The in­tro­duc­tion of 3D – which seems to be for fi­nan­cial rather than any ob­vi­ous artis­tic rea­sons – doesn’t help the film ei­ther, mak­ing scenes seem darker. And a night at­tack on the pi­rates by a school of mer­maids be­comes just a whirl of dig­i­tally-ren­dered gloom. This time around, Jack joins forces with Bar­bossa (Ge­of­frey Rush) to lo­cate the Fountain Of Youth – one of the world’s last undis­cov­ered trea­sures. The quest be­comes in­fin­itely more per­ilous when Jack is forced aboard the Queen Anne’s Re­venge cap­tained by leg­endary pi­rate Black­beard (Ian McShane), who is also seek­ing the Fountain aided by his beau­ti­ful daugh­ter An­gel­ica (Pene­lope Cruz). Us­ing all of his guile, Jack must some­how out­wit Black­beard and An­gel­ica to reach the fountain be­fore his ri­vals. En route, he crosses paths with ro­tund King Ge­orge II (Richard Grif­fiths) and hunky pri­est (Sam Claflin), whose at­trac­tion to one of the mer­maids (Astrid Berges-Fris­bey) tests his faith. Pi­rates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides starts off promis­ingly with a fast­paced se­quence in Lon­don, which sees Jack es­cap­ing from the king’s men by rid­ing on the roofs of mov­ing horse-drawn car­riages. How­ever, once the film takes to the wa­ter, the plot springs leaks and the sim­mer­ing screen chem­istry be­tween Cruz and Depp sur­pris­ingly never catches light. In­deed, there are more sparks be­tween Claflin and his fishy femme. The ris­ing Bri­tish

STARS: Pene­lope Cruz, Ian McShane and Johnny Depp.

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