Director: Rob Marshall
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Johnny Depp returns to smear on the black eyeliner and dress up in pirate drag as Captain Jack Sparrow in this fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie for all ye maties. Who knew a Disney theme-park ride had such legs? On Stranger Tides—the first in the franchise to be shot in 3D—made over $1 billion worldwide and featured the return of Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa and another appearance by Keith Richards as Jack's father. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley didn't hop onboard for this adventure, leaving all the treasure hunting to Ian McShane as Blackbeard, Penélope Cruz as Blackbeard's daughter, Angelica, and Sam Claflin as Philip Swift.
Everyone in On Stranger Tides is involved in a mad dash to find the Fountain of Youth. King George II has hired Barbossa—who lost the Black Pearl and one leg in a battle with Blackbeard—to lead an expedition to the Fountain before the Spanish find it. Barbossa tries to bring Jack along but the wily pirate escapes and runs into his ex love, Angelica, who is impersonating him to round up her own Fountain crew. Jack joins her on Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge as they sail off to find two mystical chalices that belonged to Juan Ponce de León.
In addition to the chalices, one of the ingredients needed to activate the power of the Fountain of Youth is a mermaid's tear, so Blackbeard anchors his ship and attempts to lure the deadly aqua beauties closer to shore where one can be captured. This exciting sequence with mermaids attacking the crew after trying to seduce them showcases some impressive CG wizardry and is one of the best action scenes in the entire franchise.
The pirates manage to capture one mermaid, Syrena (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey), and bring her along to coerce a tear out of her, which she later gives up after falling for mercenary Philip Swift. With all the parties converging on the Fountain at once, who will use its power to steal the years of life from another person?
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was shot with 3D in mind, so the best way to enjoy the exotic scenery shot in Hawaii, the eye-popping mermaid sequence and other 3D-begging stunts is to check it out on Blu-ray 3D. Even if you don't have that capability, it's still fun to see Depp—who could do Jack's effeminate gestures and unique mannerisms in his sleep at this point—back as Captain Sparrow. McShane—a man who knows how to play crusty from his work on Deadwood—is a perfect Blackbeard, and Claflin ably steps up to the plate as the sidekick who has a heart of gold instead of looking for a chest of one. Only Cruz with her shrill accent and goofy costuming seems out of place, like she took a wrong turn from accepting a cocktail waitress gig on a Captain Morgan party barge. Where she ended up isn't the best movie in the Pirates franchise, but there is still treasure to be found in the form of eye candy, especially when a sexy mermaid dives across the screen.
Best extras: The two-disc combo pack (one Blu-ray, one DVD) contains "Bloopers of the Caribbean," commentary by director Rob Marshall, "LEGO Animated Shorts: Captain Jack's Brick Tales" and Disney Second Screen functionality if you want to explore extras on a portable device while synced to the movie on your TV screen. The five-disc combo pack (one Blu-ray 3D, two Blu-rays, one DVD and one digital copy) has all of the previously mentioned features plus "Legends of On Stranger Tides," "In Search of the Fountain," "Last Sail/First Voyage," "Under the Scene: Bringing the Mermaids to Life" plus deleted and extended scenes with intros by Marshall.