Even though Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides has the shortest running time of all the installments in Disney's adventure series, its overstuffed treasure chest of filler makes it feel hours longer than it is. While the plot is solid and makes more sense than those of the earlier Pirates movies, there are too many distractions. Overly long battles, boring action sequences, and unnecessary scenes stretch what could have been a snappy amusement into a bloated, almost two-and-a-half-hour movie.
Johnny Depp is back as Captain Jack Sparrow, this time with a new nemesis: his scorned ex-lover Angelica (Penelope Cruz). Though she's furious that Jack left her years ago after seducing her, she's not the villain of the movie — her boss, the evil Blackbeard (Ian McShane), is. Angelica serves as the first mate on his ship, which she drags Jack onto so he can help direct them to the elusive Fountain of Youth. The mythical place can save Blackbeard from his predicted fate: death at the hands of Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who's on their tail, eager to fulfill Blackbeard's destiny.
To read about the movie's few redeeming qualities, just keep reading.
Depp's shtick could have gotten tired in movie number four, but Cruz keeps his hilarity intact. There's a sexy rapport as they sword fight and trade flirtatious insults, and it's a delight to watch. Cruz and Depp's expressions are full of the friendly glee that comes when two actors obviously enjoy working together. Their scenes are the best in the film, but if you're looking for gratification from their relationship, you'll be disappointed unless you get excited by direct eye contact.
On Stranger Tides also introduces us to a spectacle worth seeing: mermaids. Equal parts sinister and seductive, the sea creatures bring lots of excitement and some cool visual effects. And I was grateful to see an unexpected romance between one of the mermaids and a missionary (played by easy-on-the-eyes newcomer Sam Claflin) because I found myself missing the Elizabeth Swann/Will Turner love story of movies past.
With these fresh elements, the movie had the potential to be lively and entertaining — if about a half hour had ended up on the cutting room floor. Even with Depp leading the way as captain, it's a ride you wish ended a lot sooner.