Who's In It: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane, Kevin McNally, Keith Richards, Sam Claflin, Astrid Berges-Frisbey
The Basics: Jack Sparrow, in his usual staggering, slurring form, is on the loose again, this time looking for the Fountain of Youth. What he doesn't know is that an ex-flame Angelica (Cruz) and Blackbeard the Pirate (McShane) are looking for it too. Hilarity and terrifying mermaids ensue. No, seriously--that's the story. I know the previous movies were really convoluted and ridiculous, but that's all there is for this one. Quit looking at me funny.
What's The Deal: I am going to level with you, dear reader. I have spent the past 5 years trying to figure out what in the world was going on in the last two Pirates movies. The third one, in fact, had me close to seeing a psychiatrist three times a week just to pinpoint exactly what failings of my neurons had made me confused by a Disney movie. This one, however, harkens back to the first one, although it fails to completely recapture the magic. Is it fine? Yes. Is it the living end of pirate movies? No. It's just better than the majority of that lame sequel junk studios are pumping out.
What To Expect: If you watch the first movie, you can just insert these not-fresh-but-not-totally-stale details into it: more cute Sparrow-isms, more kohl eyeliner, and hot sword fighting choreography. There is a lukewarm romance between Jack and Angelica, you get to see more treasure and skeletons, Captain Barbosa (Rush) has a peg leg, and there are scary mermaids that will keep your children out of the water for a long time.
What You Won't Miss: This film stands alone from the others (for the most part) and doesn't suffer from the lack of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley's defined jawlines and mock outrage at Jack. There is also not as much evil government in this one, which was fine by me. We got the powdered wigs out of the way early and focused on Jack flinging himself around with palm trees. The usual brand of monkey business.
Fun Fact: This movie was directed by Rob Marshall, who was the man behind Chicago and Nine. Hats off to him, because he directed the heck out of this movie. It looked consistent with the others but had a stronger grasp on easy-to-follow concepts that made the first film lovable (may I also remind you that this franchise is based on an amusement park ride? It's not rocket science). I left the theater satisfied in the same hollow way that Raisinettes leave me when I eat them instead of dinner. Like most sequels, it pales in comparison because they're just reusing what worked in the first film--and that never satisfies that deep, hungry need for magic.