‘On Stranger Tides’: Pirates tango and mermaids mangle

Riding the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disneyland as a child, I never imagined that it would become a movie franchise for Disney. In this fourth installment, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” Jack Sparrow finds romance and does a little dance, but nothing tethers the slippery Sparrow down. As with the other three, there’s also another romantic storyline and that one doesn’t end happily ever after, but the entertainment is all in the telling of the story and this is one story well-told..

The second and third films took on seafaring legends of Davy Jones, the Flying Dutchman and the Kraken. This time, we have Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and the Fountain of Youth. Sparrow now tangles and tangos with Blackbeard’s daughter, Angelica (Penelope Cruz), an old flame. But as one would imagine with Sparrow, that past romance didn’t end well and this one isn’t likely to either.

Back is Kevin R. McNally as Josashamee Gibbs, Jack Sparrow’s first mate,  who is about to be sentenced by a suspicious judge. Also returning is Sparrow’s frenemy Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) who has gone legit and now serves King George II. Barbossa is less one leg thanks to the infamous Blackbeard and like all good pirate captains, he wants revenge.

Orlando Bloom as Will Turner and Keira Knightly as Elizabeth Swann don’t appear, but in their place, we have a religious man, Philip Swift (Sam Claflin) who helps captures and then saves a mermaid. And these aren’t mermaids like Disney’s 1989 animated feature film “The Little Mermaid.” These are seductive women above the water and murderous beasts below.  Yet Swift finds a protective affection toward the mermaid he calls Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey).

The pirates need the mermaid in order to perform a ritual at the Fountain of Youth.

The movie gets its title from Tim Powers’ 1987 fantasy novel about a John “Jack Shandy” Chandagnac who travels to confront his uncle, but on the journey becomes compelled to join a pirate crew that is led by Blackbeard and in search of the Fountain of Youth. The Disney movie is only inspired by the book from what I can tell.

The real Blackbeard was born Edward Teach and operated in the West Indies and the Eastern coast of the American colonies between 1717-1718 and his ship was Queen Anne’s Revenge and the Adventure. Blackbeard isn’t known to have killed or maimed any of his captives. One of his favorite spots was Ocracoke Inlet. He died in North Carolina, 22 November 1718 at Ocracoke, killed in battle and beheaded. His ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, was found and excavated in 1997.

That, of course, is dreary fact. “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is fiction and a fantastic fantasy film about swashbuckling men and women looking for adventure.

Of course, with talks of possible sequels, you know that Sparrow will live and somehow he’ll find the Fountain of Youth. The rollicking tale that follows won’t disappoint. My husband thought the pacing at the end dragged out the ending and could have been crisper. I wondered just what happened to Swift.

The fights are breathtaking, the CGI are awe-inspiring and you’ll wish you were a pirate–at least Disney style.

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