A new crew; a new course; the same Captain?
Like Indiana Jones, the character of Jack Sparrow ("there should be a Captain in there somewhere...") is a beloved thing, with the pulling power to get bums on seats no matter how good or bad the film is. Both experienced a negative response to their last outings, so for Jack at least, his return sees a new director at the helm in order to steer them away from the rocks that Dead Man's Chest and At World's End came a cropper on.
Unfortunately, the screenwriters weren't either replaced or clapped in irons until they saw the error of their ways and were made to take the pirate oath that they'd return to the excellence that was The Curse Of The Black Pearl.
Again, we are given the remarkable feat of taking a simple storyline - a race to the Fountain Of Youth - and over stuffing it with throwaway characters and superfluous scenes. The chase sees 4 groups engaged, with one of them - the Spanish - being totally irrelevant to the proceedings: they open the movie then disappear until the end where all they do is look un-menacing then disappear again. The other 3 - Depp's still delightful Sparrow who teeters on the verge of becoming a caricature now; Rush's Barbossa who has become increasingly underused; and McShane's Blackbeard who is never given time to be a good villain - meet with varying degrees of creating laughs, excitement and being relevant to the story.
One of the most unlikely shocks whilst watching it is that Knightley and Bloom are sorely missed. The dialogue was cheesy but their love was true and it was their grounded-ness that made the interactions with Depp's rum-soaked, girl-running hero all the more enjoyable. Their replacements - a Clergyman and a mermaid - are as entertaining and needed as a sober Sparrow.
It has spectacle - the London carriage chase; the mermaid attack - but to get to them you have to endure an over-stuffed screenplay that begins to suck the possible enjoyment out of the movie. When you walk away struggling to think of a good Jack Sparrow line, you know you're in dangerous waters. There is by the way ("Captain, I wish to report a mutiny. I can name fingers and point names.") but not enough to stop you thinking you've been made to walk the plank yet again.
UK release date: 20/05/11