A couple of points to get on the table before we begin. Firstly, I saw the first Pirates film way back when and thought it was kind-of OK, if unremarkable. I wasn't interested enough to see the next two (though I didn't miss the appalling reception that the thrid film received) and I wouldn't have seen this one were I not mucking around with this blogging palaver (despite the starring presence of Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz). Secondly, and with a few exceptions, I'm generally against sequels, reboots and the like - it's lazy and uncreative; just think what could've been made with the cash from Pirates 2, 3 and 4 (not to mention the already-slated fifth and sixth instalments). The great irony here is that the pushers of this play-it-safe trash are the self-same bean-counters who fought tooth-and-nail against Johnny Depp's off-the-wall performance as Jack Sparrow in the first movie.
So I had pretty low expectations for On Stranger Tides. And, well, it kind of met them - it's not particularly good, nor is it especially bad. The story (which there's little point synopsising, suffice to say that the Depp and Cruz are caught up in the evil Blackbeard's pursuit of the legendary Fountain of Youth; he in turn is pursued by Brits led by Geoffrey Rush as well as a fleet of faceless Spaniards) should satisfy the fans of the franchise, and there's enough whizzing, banging and gurning to divert teen-aged attention for a couple of hours at least.
What's to like: some of the action sequences are imaginatively choreographed, Johnny Depp is fine, if you like him doing this sort of thing, Cruz smoulders figuratively while Ian McShane as Blackbeard smoulders literally. The effects seem perfectly OK (I saw this in two old-fashioned dimensions, so can't comment on the 3D) and Hans Zimmer's score bounces along happily. I also laughed at one point: an in-your-endo missionary gag.
The bad news - well, the plot is a sloppy mess, it's at least half an hour too long, quite a few jokes fall flat, there is absolutely zero emotional engagement to be had and the final sequence shamelessly steals from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade (not a good idea, given that Spielberg's trilogy - I don't count the Crystal Skull abomination - is a masterclass of the kind of Saturday-morning-serial-adventure-homage that Pirates aspires, and fails, to be). And on a personal note, much as I love Johnny Depp I can't really be doing with this kind of OTT-style that he turns on from time to time.
So to sum up: it's overwrought and overlong, annoyingly franchisey and not half as funny as it thinks it is - but it's not terrible either, not even the worst film this month. Just watchable trash.