Sunday, May 22, 2011

Reel To Reel: Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

"Captain Jack will get you by tonight, and take you to your special island..."

Going Rate: Worth matinee price, without 3D.
Starring: Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Ian McShane
Rated: PG-13
Red Flags: Ye Olde Pirate Violence & Swordplay, Some Scary Supernatural Effects

Joining us once again on this edition of Reel To Reel is our resident privateer, Captain Bartholomew Burgundy, to give us additional insight on the latest Pirates Of The Caribbean movie, a franchise both of us thought had ended one picture ago. Director Rob Marshall is taking the wheel from Gore Verbinski, but Johnny Depp is back as Captain Jack Sparrow, so let's see what happens. Captain Burgundy, you have the deck.

Thank ye kindly, mate. I 'ave to say quite plainly tha' if ye seeking a swashbucklin' pirate film, well, ye got one. Ye got Cap'n Jack, ye got Barbossa (that be Geoffrey Rush), ye got a search f' treasure, and ye got an all-star pirate, Edward Teach, who's known to ye landlubbers as Blackbeard.

I really don' need t' say much about th' plot, because everybody's after the same thin': th' Fountain o' Youth. But ye see, it ain' as simple as just findin' th' fountain, righ', because they also gotta fin' several things tha' make 't work, like a couple of chalices an' a mermaid's tear. How's tha' for a shoppin' list?

Anyhow, Capt. Jack ends up 'n th' unlikely service of Blackbeard after trackin' down a lady who's masqueradin' as 'im to pu' a crew together. This lady known as Angelica (who be Penelope Cruz) also 'appens to be someone he'd 'ad a fling wit'. So ye got a complication there. I always warn me prospectiv' privateers never to mix work an' love.

Speaking of privateers, Barbossa has gone legit, in service to a fashionably portly King George II, and a whole lot of British sailors and officers who are mainly along for the ride. Obviously, Captain, you know that has benefits, namely the support of the Crown and a better wardrobe. And you get to loot for benefit of King and Country.

GOD save th' king! Aye, you're right. But I foun' something quite curious. Th' Spaniards ar' involved 'n this pursuit, an' they seem to, as ye would say in modern vernacular, fly under th' radar. They have all these ships 'n sailors an' commanders, and nobody seems t' want t' attack them, even when His Majesty's Navy 'as 'em dead in sight fer a broadside. I tell ye' they would never slip away, 'f I had command of a fleet. Instead, everyone else be busy fightin' each other here 'n there 'n everywhere.

I felt that way, too. The more I watched this film, the more I got the feeling it was conceived as five or six big action sequences duck-taped together with some dialogue and Johnny Depp sauntering about. By the way, how many British regulars does it take to capture Jack Sparrow? That sounds like the first line to a joke, and you're right. A sequence at the beginning of the movie shows them more like Keystone Kops than seasoned soldiers of a mighty empire as Captain Jack gets away from them -- again -- in such convoluted and incompetent fashion that it should win the Rube Goldberg Prize for Escape Scenes. General Washington would laugh at these ridiculous redcoats.

Well 't is just a movie, mind ye. Bu' what bothers me is that we 'ave so many supernatural elements 'n this film. Take Cap'n Blackbeard. Somehow, e's got this magic sword tha' can fill th' sails of the Queen Anne's Revenge with win' and comman' the ropes t' tie 'up any mutineers. Blimey, where does 'e get such wonderful toys? I sure neva 'eard of a sword, nay even a cutlass like 'at. From wha' I know, the real Blackbeard never 'ad t' worry 'bout mutiny, either, on accoun' he commanded s' much respect from 'is crew. Bu' here, I see most'a 'is crew swabbin' th' deck, an' he got 'is officers zombified or somethin'. An' di' I tell ye he knows voodoo, too? Talk about ye artistic license! I know Blackbeard, an' tha' ain' Blackbeard.

No, it's not. But we both know legends tend to impede upon the truth, which brings us to another problem with this film: the mermaids. Okay, they're beautiful, even if none of them look like Darryl Hannah. They lure you in and spout fangs like vampires once they've got you -- I wonder if somebody actually researched the fang bit or just decided to throw in something for Twilight fans.

It's hard to get tears out of mermaid, we're told, and I guess exposing them to onions doesn't work, so the writers had to add a throwaway romance between the mermaid Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) and Philip (Sam Claflin), a captured missionary on Blackbeard's boat.

Truth be told, I didn't really buy any romantic overtures between Jack and Angelica, either, because Jack only uses ladies to further his own cause. Captain Burgundy, I do believe you once said you thought Jack was a gentleman at heart.

I know. An' I'm walkin' that statemen' back. Bu' what leaves me scratchin' me cocked hat is how the cap'n can swing 'n swordfight 'is way outa anythin' and yet he's always walkin' like 'es under the gin tipsy.

We don't see anything new or original about Jack, which is just the way audiences want it: a flamboyant pirate strutting around. But, Captain, I imagine you can relate to people calling you flamboyant with your red stockings and big tricorn.

Aye, I 'ave been called a fop 'n mo' than one occasion. But 'tis me, 'tis th' way GOD made me.

Nothing wrong with that. Getting back to the movie, though, with all its issues, is it something we should be plunking down hard-earned booty for?

If 'ye enjoyed th' fir' three pictures, aye. But I wouldn' shell ou' extra fer tha' 3-D. I don' see th' point of it.

Neither do I. I think Disney should've quit with the trilogy, but it won't as long as it keeps earning the booty. Disney has done quite well with this franchise, certainly better than its other films based on its theme-park rides: Haunted Mansion and The Country Bears. I wouldn't rule out a fifth installment.

So, sword up or down on this one?

Sword up, but just barely. I woul' love t' see a pirate film mo' faithful t' history.

I agree. I give it a marginal sword up, or maybe sword level. As far as history goes, one thing I did enjoy was seeing the wonderful 18th century costumes of the English townspeople and regulars. No detail was spared, head to toe.

Ye thinkin' about a wig?


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