Another Pirates of the Caribbean movie, another excursion into cinema as an extended amusement park ride. Lots of weird places to visit, lots of crazy things to gawk at and the bonuses that come with having it in convenient movie form: no sore back afterwards, no waiting in line, no side effects for pregnant women or people with pacemakers.

Clocking in at 128 minutes, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is the leanest POTC film yet, though new to the franchise director Rob Marshall (Chicago), thrown in the midst to give the well-worked show some fresh razzmatazz, maintains the franchise tradition of going on and on and on and on. This time around Kiera Knightley and Orlando Bloom have been ditched, Geoffrey Rush returns with one leg and Penelope Cruz’s cleavage makes a cameo or, erm, two.

Screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio must have been scratching their noggins and sweating through the deep dark recesses of writer’s block, their apartment on Sunset Boulevard stacked with empty pizza boxes and near empty scotch bottles, unable to settle on a fresh concept until finally the light bulb switched on: the fountain of life!

Not the most original idea in the world but what the hell. Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) leads an expedition to a distant island where said fountain exists, but like every POTC movie it is very much about the journey rather than the destination. Blackbeard (Ian McShane) is boss of the mission; Angelica (Penelope Cruz) tags along for the ride and Barbarossa (Geoffrey Rush), working for the Crown, is never far behind.

There are too many splotches of swash buckling shenanigans and sideshows to count, and coming out of the cinema at game’s end feels like returning home from a long and exhausting holiday. Johnny Depp is the weirdo tour guide who makes even the boring bits palatable.

The first 15 minutes of Stranger Tides is a gas, with Sparrow dressing up as a judge and launching a spectacular escape from the powers that be, then getting captured and doing it all again. When he bumps into his father (Keith Richards), who informs him of a boat that be needin’ a Cap, one expects the plot to slow down to establish a storyline but not on Marshall’s watch: the film’s energizer bunny pace keeps on goin’ and goin’ and goin’, to the point at which the action becomes borderline monotonous.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Australian theatrical release date: May 19, 2011.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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