Penelope Cruz adds spice to enjoyable "Pirates 4"

Thu May 12, 2011 11:28am EDT
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By Ray Bennett

LONDON (Hollywood Reporter) - Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow is back in excellent form for his fourth adventure in "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," which is more serious in the hands of a new director, Rob Marshall, and thanks to Penelope Cruz it's also a good deal sexier.

Best known for musicals such as "Nine" and the Academy Award-winning "Chicago," Marshall shows terrific flair with all the usual chases and sword fights, and he handles the 3D well. He also adds a dash of pepper with lively sexual tension between Sparrow and a Spanish firecracker named Angelica (Cruz).

Angelica is Jack's match for swordplay and sexy banter, and while the tone of the film, which deals with a search for the fountain of youth, is darker than the three directed by Gore Verbinski, its action, adventure and comedy will see it find a similar pot of theatrical gold.

More of the story takes place on dry land than the other films with inventive and exciting set pieces in London and the hills and jungles of an exotic place where lies the secret of perpetual youth.

It begins with Jack in the British capital to find a way to release from prison his stalwart sailmate Gibbs (Kevin McNally). With inspiration from a novel by Tim Powers titled On Stranger Tides, about another captain named Jack, screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio show typical ingenuity in devising hair-raising obstacles for Jack to overcome. In the opening, this involves changing the course of justice in an English court, an encounter with the king in his palace and a riotous chase through the streets of London.

The series' regular cinematographer, Dariusz Wolski, captures the cityscapes wittily and makes the most of real locations from the city center to the venerable naval museum at Greenwich. Marshall has brought in his usual production designer, John Myhre, who won an Oscar for "Chicago," and he makes the palaces, pubs and, later, jungle temple breathtakingly shipshape. Hans Zimmer demonstrates again his keen grasp of how a musical score can inform action and elevate mood and tension.

The plot is again driven by a search for something virtually unobtainable as Jack finds himself in a chase to find the fountain of youth in competition with not only the returning Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush, having fun once more) but also the Spanish navy and the most deadly pirate of them all, Blackbeard (Ian McShane).

Cruz makes a splendid entrance in disguise but once revealed she brings her vivacity to an irrepressible woman who claims to be Blackbeard's daughter. McShane, too, grabs his first appearance on the bridge of a pirate ship with great panache.   Continued...

<p>Actors Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz pose for photographers in front of the Kremlin during a news conference in Moscow May 11, 2011. REUTERS/Stringer</p>