Bland Ahoy, Captain Jack! with No Plot, No Wit and No Charm, Johnny Depp's Latest Pirates of the Caribbean Adventure Deserves to Sink without Trace

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Byline: Reviews by Chris Tookey

Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (12A)

Verdict: Yo ho hopeless *

Julia's Eyes (15)

Verdict: An eye-opener ***

Vidal Sassoon: The Movie (PG)

Verdict: Hair today, gone tomorrow **

Third Star (15)

Verdict: Dull and overcast **

THE FIRST two Pirates Of The Caribbean films were exuberant swashbucklers that married traditional Errol Flynn-style heroics to modern digital effects. They had a sense of humour that poked fun at old pirate sagas such as The Sea Hawk, Captain Blood and The Crimson Pirate, but reproduced their cliches in loving detail.

They spawned a $2.6billion franchise so popular that even the third of the series -- a huge disappointment and a storytelling disaster -- turned a handsome profit, becoming the ninth highest-grossing film of all time.

The fourth of the franchise defies criticism, since quality is clearly irrelevant to its success or otherwise, but it is loud, bombastic -- and extravagantly boring.

Although the shortest Pirates sequel yet, it feels painfully long; 136 minutes is a hellishly bloated running time for a movie with no characters to root for, a story with no depth or interesting twists, and 3D gimmickry that seems to have been added as an afterthought.

Since virtually nothing happens that demands emotional or intelligent involvement, the picture affords plenty of opportunities to check how it looks without 3D glasses. Most of it is better without, since the specs only darken the images and make the characters look like cardboard cut-outs -- an impression deepened by the shockingly poor dialogue and feeble characterisation.

In the first two Pirates movies, Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow was a chirpy trickster; one of the silver screen's most iconic scoundrels since Han Solo. I distinctly remember hailing this as a great comic performance, and the first Pirates movie even won Depp an Oscar nomination.

At the fourth time of asking, however, he minces and flounces with no light behind the eyes, as though his mind is on his next assignation with Tim Burton.

AS HIS romantic interest, Penelope Cruz manages to be neither romantic nor interesting.

Depp and Cruz don't strike sparks off each other, even though they are meant to be old flames. She looks feisty and Spanish, and evidently thinks this is enough.

The only moments when the film comes alive are during a couple of action sequences, notably one when mermaids attack like a school of murderous mackerel. But not even this has the flair of similar scenes in the first two Pirates movies.

The film as a whole is not as incomprehensible as the third Pirates film, but it's every bit as tedious, with vast gobs of exposition delivered by actors who deserve better, and hardly any attempts by screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio to supply recognisable human motivation.

The leads may all be after the fountain of eternal youth, but they might be better advised to pursue early retirement. The film leaves them looking old, wet and exhausted. Rob Marshall directs even more anonymously than his predecessor, Gore Verbinski. …