Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
The Lone Ranger

Title: The Lone Ranger

More Like "Tonto, The Movie," Right? It is a bit odd when the titular character of your movie is partially cropped out of the film's poster. ——>

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: One scenic "Texas" landscape photos out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: A cloud of dust, a hearty "Hi-Yo, Silver!", and train scenes. So many train scenes.

Tagline: "Never take off the mask."

Better Tagline: "Given early box office projections, you can probably forget about a Green Hornet tie-in."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Resurrected from near death by a mysterious Comanche named Tonto (Johnny Depp), lawyer John Reid (Armie Hammer) takes up the responsibilities of his dead brother, a Texas Ranger who deputized him in pursuit of a fiendish villain, in order to make the West safe for white women and silversmiths.

See It/Rent It/Skip It: Minus the final train set piece, which is pretty cool, there's really no argument for watching it. Skip it.

"Critical" Analysis: The Lone Ranger had an estimated budget of $250 million. It was made by Walt Disney in conjunction with Jerry Bruckheimer Films, two studios not exactly known for pinching pennies (even though Depp reportedly took a pay cut to bring the movie in under budget ... meaning he probably *only* pocketed $15 million). Keep all that in mind if you decide to check it out, and especially as you find yourself repeatedly asking, "What was the point of *that*?"

What was the point of setting the movie in "Colby, Texas" yet shooting the whole thing in Monument Valley? Yes, yes; John Reid was supposedly an ex-*Texas* Ranger, but the Lone Ranger's exploits took him throughout the Old West. Chalk it up to Lone Star bias, but seeing "The Mittens" in the background the whole time briefly will make you question your 4th grade history and briefly wonder if the Republic of Texas ever extended to Arizona (it didn't, and anyway the movie's set in 1869).

What was the point of pairing director Gore Verbinski and Depp again? There's a sense of familiarity that infuses the film, and not all of the welcome variety. Verbinski and Depp have teamed up before, on Rango and the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and The Lone Ranger is resonant with all the slapstick and bloat of the worst of those (Dead Man's Chest).

This being a Western, you were probably hoping for an action sequence set on a train. The good news is, you get three, which serve as your most recent reminders that Verbinski just doesn't know when to ease up. Maybe if he could keep it to one or two of these things per film, but hey, we've got two-and-a-half hours to fill, meaning that much more Rube Goldberg by way of Michael Bay. And the similarities to PotC don't stop there. Bad guy Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) is leeringly reminiscent of Captain Barbossa, while Tonto's broken pocket watch recalls Captain Jack Sparrow's errant compass.

Ah, Tonto. Remember when Depp was considered one of his generation's greatest actors? At this point, he's been cashing paychecks for so long it's hard to believe that was ever the case. Hiding his obvious lack of Native American-ness behind Norwegian black metal corpse paint, Depp portrays the Comanche sidekick as a more sober, less cowardly version of his famous pirate, addled by childhood tragedy instead of rum. Whether this conveys a more "dignified" representation of the American Indian in cinema is up to you. Try and keep an open mind while watching him run around with a dead bird on his head.

The high points are brief: Tom Wilkinson as the increasingly sinister train magnate, James Badge Dale in an all-too brief appearance (do you think he went by Dan "Dead Meat" Reid), and Helena Bonham-Carter. Because Helena Bonham-Carter.

Not enough to recommend, unfortunately. You don't havew to be a box office prognosticator to see The Lone Ranger has the desperate stench of the summer's movie season's first serious bust.

The Lone Ranger is in theaters now. They probably just should've made another Pirates movie.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar