Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (12A)

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Three out of Five stars
Running time: 141 mins

The fourth instalment in the Pirates franchise is extremely (eye) patchy, much too long and so slow that it's practically becalmed, but its good moments are just about enough to make it worthwhile.

What's it all about?
Directed by Rob Marshall, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides wisely dumps Keira Knightley and Orblando Gloom this time round, and catches up with Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he's brought before King George II (Richard Griffiths). When asked to help the British fleet beat the Spanish to the Fountain of Youth, he promptly escapes, only to end up in the crew of a ship captained by legendary pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and his feisty daughter-slash-old-flame-of-Jack's, Angelica (Penelope Cruz), who are also seeking the Fountain.

Jack soon discovers that as well as the Spanish, the British are also hot on their trail, captained by his old nemesis Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). Meanwhile, the Fountain of Youth requires certain items in order to work properly and top of the list is a mermaid's tear ...

The Good
Depp can do Captain Jack Sparrow in his sleep at this point and he seems intent on proving it, because he's more or less on auto-pirate here and his trademarked witty lines seem to have jumped ship. McShane is similarly disappointing as Blackbeard, though Cruz makes a good adversary/love-interest and Rush is enjoyably hammy; there's also a great micro-cameo from Judi Dench that's easily the best moment in the film.

To be fair, the film does have its fair share of good moments: the opening 30 minutes (including the escape sequence) is a huge amount of fun, the swordfights are handled much better than in previous films and the mermaid attack sequence is genuinely thrilling. The film was shot in proper 3D too, so you get a sword waved in your face every few minutes or so.

The Bad
The main problem is that the film peaks with the mermaid sequence and proceeds to drag horribly for the remainder of its criminally lengthy running time. It's also saddled with some extremely dull supporting characters (chiefly Sam Claflin, as a cleric who falls for Astrid Berges-Frisbey's mermaid) and there's not nearly enough action or humour, particularly in the second half.

Worth seeing?
Despite the flaws listed above, Pirates 4 is still a lot more enjoyable than either of the previous sequels and is just about worth seeing on balance, though it's not as much fun as it should have been.


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