Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Blu-ray

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Blu-ray/DVD boxSTUDIO: Walt Disney Studios | DIRECTOR: Rob Marshall | CAST: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Geoffrey Rush
RELEASE DATE: 10/18/2011 | PRICE: DVD $29.99 (release Nov. 15, 2011), Blu-ray $39.99, Blu-ray 3D $49.99
BONUSES: bloopers, shorts, commentary, Second Screen
SPECS: PG-13 | 136 min. | Action Adventure | 2.40:1 aspect ratio | 7.1 DTS-HD audio | English, French, Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger TidesJohnny Depp (The Tourist) continues to entertain enormously as Jack Sparrow in this fourth installment of the franchise.

Although it lost the romance of the original trilogy — not to mention the star names of Keira Knightley (Never Let Me Go) and Orlando Bloom (Lord of the Rings movies) — Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides kept the comedy, action and adventure. That’s thanks to returning writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, who have had the pulse of the story since the beginning. Better known for his musicals Chicago and Nine, Rob Marshall steps into the director’s seat this time, successfully continuing the style Gore Verbinski instilled in the first three films.

Also returning are Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech) as Barbossa, Kevin McNally (Johnny English) as Gibbs and rocker Keith Richards in another cameo as Captain Teague. But the story takes the characters in a new direction with new players. Penelope Cruz (Broken Embraces) is the new lady in the pack, playing an old love of Depp’s Sparrow, but the romance is definitely backseat to the adventure.

Cruz recruits Depp to help her and her father Blackbeard (Ian McShane, The Pillars of the Earth) find the fountain of youth, while the Spanish and English are close on their trail.

Never without a dab of fantasy, On Stranger Tides features mermaids, with one in particular (Astrid Berges-Frisbey, The Well Digger’s Daughter) attracting the eye of a religious man (Sam Claffin, United). Their story provides the only unsatisfying part of the movie, as their ending is left open. Perhaps it’ll be completed in a fifth film?

The high-definition video and audio on the Blu-ray are superb, as usual for new movies. And as usual, its the color saturation that’s the biggest thrill. The greens of the jungle, the red cross on Sparrow’s cheek, the gold of King George’s (Richard Griffiths, Harry Potter movies) room sparkles and pops off the screen.

The special features, on the other hand, are a disappointment. The best one — and this says something — is the blooper reel, which shows Depp cracking up, Rush trying to overcome a broken wooden leg and Gibbs trying to keep his sword out of Depp’s ear.

Kids will enjoy the animated shorts “Captain Jack’s Brick Tales,” even though they’re really short. But parents might not appreciate the fact that they’re basically ads for LEGO’s Pirates of the Caribbean sets.

Marshall and executive producer John DeLuca recorded a commentary for the movie, but it’s miss-worthy. They spend the vast majority of the time telling us how wonderful, talented, etc., Depp and everyone else is. Tell us something we don’t know. Please!

The only other bonus feature is Disney’s Second Screen. It’s a nifty extra, and offers behind-the-scenes footage, visual effects progressions and more. The problem is, it’s only available on your computer or iPad. Second Screen syncs with the movie as you watch it, and shows appropriate extras for the current scene. Sounds interesting, but in practice, this is movie entertainment, and who wants to watch the big home theater screen and the computer screen at the same time to get the bonuses? Plus, watching on the TV screen is better if you want to share with your family.

Disney debuted Second Screen with the Blu-ray debut of Bambi and it was an interesting gimmick then, but at least the lion’s share of the special features were accessible without it. Putting all the special features in Second Screen only limits the viewers choice, and that’s never a good thing.

Buy or Rent Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
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About S. Clark

Sam Clark is the former Managing Editor/Online Editor of Video Business magazine. With 19 years experience in journalism, 12 in the home entertainment industry, Sam has been hooked on movies on since she saw E.T. then stared into the sky waiting to meet her own friendly alien. Thanks to her husband’s shared love of movies, Sam reviews Blu-ray discs in a true home theater, with a 118-inch screen, projector and cushy recliners with cup holders.