So recently, I've been on a bit of a pirate/privateer kick. Yes, I know that the age of sail was about as offensive as possible to absolutely everyone who wasn't an upper-class white male in that time, but hell, that's why it's fiction. During this kick, I decided to give the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film a shot. I hadn't seen it before this, but I figured it had to be worth a couple bucks as a rental. I was right. If you want the short version up front, I would say that it was entirely worth the cost of renting it on Amazon. I think it cost me three dollars.
As you would expect for the fourth film in a Disney series, the production values were excellent. If IMDB's filming locations list is to be believed, they sent people all over the western hemisphere for this film, and I don't doubt it. There were no ice cream makers in the film that I could spot, but that's hardly the mark of something that's fun to watch. After all, the world's stupidest film could be fun, and it would get a recommendation from me (Strange Brew? Wayne's World, anyone?)
The acting is just fine. Remember how you probably criticized Johnny Depp for playing all his characters like Jack Sparrow? Well, now he is Jack Sparrow, and it works out just fine. Penelope Cruz plays her part well, as does everyone else. I have to single out Geoffrey Rush, though. Most reviews I recall seeing said he was the high point of the third film, at least. He gets a slow start, but, again, he does wonderful work.
The story is considerably less crazy than most of the other films in the series. They still have the magical angle, and the voodoo one, as well as the kind of supernatural connection between captains and their ships that the series has been a fan of, but it's nothing that makes you suspend your disbelief further than the previous films did. If anything, I would say that it is the film most grounded in reality since the first Pirates of the Caribbean.
There are also a number of more minor things to recommend it. The music, for example, is good. They still have the same epic music from the previous installments, but they've also given it a very Spanish flair at parts, which really reflects the story of the film. The action scenes are filmed differently, but it's hard to describe how. I would say that, in previous films, Knightly and Bloom were the primary characters, and they mostly reacted to whatever Depp did, so it was always just an escape coming out of nowhere. In this one, Depp is clearly the main character, so you see him plan his heroic escapes. In just about the first scene, he notices the chandelier, causes a guard to cut one of its ropes, goes one way, goes the other, hits a landing, then is pretty much gone. It's certainly beyond what I can do, but I like how it made it clear what he was doing.
In conclusion, I would say that you should give Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides another chance. It won't be as bad as you imagined it. I'm not promising it will be good, but it's hardly as bad as I expected.
A warning: If you're a parent, they work blue more than once. Most notably, when Sparrow supports the Missionary's position. In pretty much that many words. Also, it's been a while since catechism, but I'm fairly certain it skips over the idea of mortal sin. If that's your thing, then you may want to preview it. If you're the sort of Christian who is okay with a formerly Catholic atheist making your decisions for you, then good on you!
A quote or two, which probably contain spoilers:
CPT Jack Sparrow: Clergyman, on the off chance that this does not go well for me, I would like it noted here and now that I am fully prepared to believe in whatever I must, so that I may be welcomed into that place where all the "goody-goodies" get to go. Savvy?
CPT Jack Sparrow: [Spoilers all over the place!] . . . better to not know which moment may be you're last. Every morsel of your entire being alive to the infinite mystery of it all. And who's to say that I won't live forever, eh? Discoverer of the Fountain of Youth. I have to say in it, Gibbs. It's a pirate's life for me, savvy?