PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES
IN the fourth episode of Disney’s adventure franchise everybody is searching for the Fountain of Youth. But it’s the series itself that feels long in the tooth, groaning under the weight of its pointlessly prolonged existence – pointless, that is, unless you’re a Disney bean counter, and this doesn’t half feel like a film put together by spreadsheet.
Thus we have the strangely lifeless sheen of 3D, since a blockbuster is no longer a blockbuster unless it’s viewed through plastic goggles; and we have the common elements of the previous movies – comedy mugging from Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow, supernatural shenanigans, noisy action set-pieces, desperately strained storylines, an absence of coherence – assembled and ticked off like items on a shopping list.
Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley have gone, not that you notice. Geoffrey Rush returns as Barbossa, now working for the British navy, while Ian McShane glowers as feared pirate Blackbeard and Penelope Cruz appears as Anjelica, Sparrow’s feisty former lover who has turned to piracy herself. They’re all romping around in the tropics, where mermaids, magical chalices and Spaniards stand in for a lucid plotline. This is noisy, joyless pap. It’s time Jack Sparrow walked the plank.
MIKE (Paul Giamatti) is a struggling small town lawyer and part-time wrestling coach. When he sees an opportunity to become the registered guardian for one of his elderly clients – and bag the $1,500 a month that comes with it – he jumps at the chance. But his new ward’s abandoned grandson, Kyle (Alex Shaffer), appears out of nowhere, and Mike feels obliged to take care of him. At first, everything runs smoothly – Kyle becomes one of the family, starts school and destroys all in his path in the wrestling ring – until his fresh-from-rehab negligent mother turns up and tries to take him back.
Win Win perfectly strikes the balance between poignant family drama and laugh-out-loud comedy. From the outset, Mike makes dubious moral decisions. He misleads his elderly client, exploits his position for easy money, and petitions to keep hold of Kyle because, importantly, the boy adds value to his hopeless wrestling troupe. And, thankfully, there is no saccharine, happy ending. It’s these complexities and layers that make it a cut above the vast majority of mainstream “indie” comedies of the last few years.