Peter Mountain © Disney Ent.
Depp and Cruz don't do enough dining or dancing.
The Dinner : fish and chips, at Ivar's Fish Bar (Pier


Johnny Depp Versus Ivar Haglund

Peter Mountain © Disney Ent.
Depp and Cruz don't do enough dining or dancing.
The Dinner: fish and chips, at Ivar's Fish Bar (Pier 54, 1001 Alaskan Way).

The Movie: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, at Pacific Place (600 Pine St.).

The Screenplate: Walt Disney and Ivar Haglund were both born in the first few years of the 20th century, and both began their empires in the 1930s--Disney with animation, which led to theme parks, television, and a movie studio; Haglund with a waterfront fish-and-chips bar attached to an aquarium. The latter didn't last, but Haglund's knack for marketing (and singing) led to Ivar's Acres of Clams and a regional chain of fish-and-chips joints. Both Disney (1901-1966) and Haglund (1905-1985) were masters of branding: Their names were their companies, though their respective companies have survived them on very different scales.

Disney is now a huge media conglomerate worth some $78 billion, and its Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, based on the Disneyland ride, has contributed nearly $3 billion in revenues to its parent company. Put differently, Disney can't afford to stop making the immensely profitable POTC movies (now pushing beyond trilogy-dom); and Johnny Depp likewise wears a pair of golden handcuffs. His curse, in exchange for untold riches, is now to play Captain Jack Sparrow for the rest of his life. Strange to say, but Haglund had a lot more fun playing Haglund, and his humblest, simplest dish is a lot more satisfying than the new Stranger Tides. And it's also cheaper than the price of a 3-D movie ticket . . .

Open until midnight and catering mainly to those tired tourists trudging the waterfront beneath the roar of the viaduct, Ivar's Pier 54 Fish Bar is the cheaper, faster alternative to Ivar's Acres of Clams, just inside the door. It's an open-air take-out storefront, not terribly inviting. And the view, unlike that offered to diners inside, is away from the water, toward the viaduct. For that reason, it's best to grab one's bag of fish and chips ($7.79 for the smallest portion, with three pieces of cod) and wander down to Waterfront Park, just north at Piers 57-59. There, behind the ugly concrete wall facing Alaskan Way, one can eat with a view of Elliott Bay and wonder at the maritime adventures of Captain Jack.

Gone, since the 2007 At World's End, are Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley; and the POTC franchise doesn't really miss them. But the eccentric, ornately cluttered, more-is-more vision of director Gore Verbinski has been replaced with the more journeyman style of Rob Marshall (who won an Oscar for Chicago, but hasn't repeated that success). Captain Jack is more or less the same--less Keith Richards (brief cameo, check), less swishy and fey, less baroque, and possibly more middle-aged. (Depp is now 48; the first POTC set sail eight years ago.) Maybe Jack would like to find a quiet cove, settle down, and stare at the sunset?

No chance. Disney won't let him. On Stranger Tides begins with an escape and chase through London, one of the movie's most enjoyable sequences. (Look for a startled Judi Dench in a carriage.) After Captain Jack meets and old flame (Penélope Cruz) and confronts old foes (Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane), there's a bit of sailing and swordplay; but what one mainly remembers about the movie is a lot of jungle slogging on foot to find Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth somewhere in the Americas. With all this marching, how are we to find our sea legs? On Stranger Tides was shot in Hawaii, and as Jack and company kept pushing through the palm fronds, I expected them to encounter the cast of Lost, which might've made for a more interesting movie.

For a subplot, mimicking the Bloom-Knightley relationship, there's a hunky missionary who falls for a mermaid; but their cross-species longing seems mainly a concession to the Twilight crowd. Rush seems to be having the most fun as the vengeful Captain Hector Barbossa, but Depp has few funny lines and little sizzle with Cruz. Marshall sets them up to tango on ship, then drops the entire idea--a disappointment given his Broadway background. He stages On Stranger Tides like a series of entrances: Here's a problem, here comes a new character, and here's a new problem to resolve. When Jack encounters Barbossa on a teetering, cliff-stranded ship, you expect a big swordfight, with the vessel tipping back and forth. No, sorry, it's on to the next obstacle--rather like a theme-park ride. The 127 minutes don't exactly drag, but there's little magic or delight. This being a 3-D production, swords are regularly thrust at the camera; and Marshall dresses his sets with netting and dangling ropes like Josef von Sternberg. It adds depth to the frame, but also makes one wish that Captain Jack had signed up for one of those home-makeover shows on TLC--Clean This Ship!, perhaps. Instead, there's just the dread prospect of more sequels over the horizon. Disney has to maintain its share price, and Depp has more private islands to buy.

Back at Ivar's, you get more value for about the same price as the movie ticket. The fries are old-school, cut large, and not a little mushy. The cod--they say it's cod, so we trust it's cod--is nicely crusty outside and flaky within. It's comfort food, cheap food, food you could imagine your grandparents eating when Ivar's was founded in 1938. You eat it standing up, or on a park bench, shooing the gulls and crows away. Though Haglund developed several successful sit-down restaurants (three remain), the seafood bars--now franchised to 25 locations around the state (even Spokane!) and popular at our sports stadiums--are really his legacy. It's too bad there's no Ivar's at Disneyland (no outside vendors allowed!), but at least we'll never have to worry about Captain Jack sailing his Black Pearl into Puget Sound.

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