Pirates of the Carribbean on Stranger Tides as reviewed by Matt Mungle in The Phantom TollboothAbsolutely made for fans, a lot of fun and does the franchise justice.

Disney sets sail to try and reengage audiences with its Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. This time around, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is without Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley but instead with Penélope Cruz and Ian McShane. Of course the main element and draw is what it always has been; Captain Jack Sparrow. Jack's swagger, wit, and pirate persona that catapulted the first films into blockbusters had to carry this one.

This time around everyone is in search of the mystical fountain of youth. King George (Richard Griffiths) has even solicited the once ruthless pirate Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) to lead his military expedition. Being without a ship at the moment Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) has to join Blackbeard's (Ian McShane) crew for a chance at the eternal spring. It is a race to see who can find the silver chalices of Ponce De Leon, and be brave enough to survive Mermaid infested waters. But even then, who will get to drink of this elusive elixir and who is simply out for revenge.

The exclusion of Knightley and Bloom will go unnoticed by many. Other than a few familiar faces this one has a story line that stands all on its own. There are a couple of references to the trilogy that will bring laughs from die hard fans but there is almost the impression that Disney was ready to move ahead and never look back. Which is fine for the most part.  Sadly also missing was a lot of the wit and one liners that Sparrow was known for. This one has just enough to keep the viewer happy but not an ounce more. This film was certainly not as dark as the last two but did step up the action and swashbuckling. We also get to see if Jack can love anything more than himself and The Pearl when he is reunited with an old flame (Penélope Cruz). But can he trust her?

Though the story line was solid there seemed to be a little too much in the way of side plots. This muddied the water slightly and pushed the film to over two hours. It certainly could have done with a little skimming. Or even better to replace the unnecessary dramatic elements with a few more Sparrow-isms. The Mermaids were definitely a welcome and unique addition to the tale. Not only were they key to the plot but also brought about an eerie suspense and beautiful allure. The mermaids are to pirates what the sirens were to the Greek Gods. Granted, a heck of a lot prettier than a Kraken but just as deadly.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is rated PG-13. As mentioned this one is not as dark as the last few films but does have a lot of action violence. Seldom do the swords draw blood even in the heartier duals. The language is very mild, and other than a few seductive glances from the mermaids there is nothing in the way of sexuality. There are some scary characters in this one as in the past films but I think that if you found little offensive in the first three you will find even less in this one. I give it 3.5 out of 5 leg flasks. Being a bit too long and with less humor made this one not as endearing. Still it was a lot of fun and did the franchise justice. My advice is to not shell out the extra bucks for the 3D version. You will enjoy the standard 2D just as much and not feel the strain on your wallet. It was absolutely made for the fans while newcomers may find it silly and uninspired.

Matt Mungle

Review copyright 2011 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.