If its summer, it must be time for another big budget movie where Johnny Depp dons makeup and a wig. The first time he was in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl,” Depp’s performance catapulted him to superstardom. That blessing has almost become a curse, as with each passing film he’s become more and more a parody of himself. This summer, Depp is taking on the iconic role of Tonto in “The Lone Ranger” alongside Armie Hammer’s John Reid, aka the Lone Ranger.
Tonto is on a quest for justice against Butch Cavindish, who destroyed his village over some silver when he was a kid. Never mind that the movie is called “The Lone Ranger.” Since Depp is a bigger star than Hammer, Tonto recruits Reid as his side-kick after bringing him back from the brink of death. Cavindish has also fallen under Reid’s crosshairs, thanks to the murder of his brother Dan. Tonto may be more lowkey than Jack Sparrow, but the same mannerisms are there, only in Native American form. It’s fitting that most of the Native Americans in “Ranger” find Tonto to be a joke, because, well, he is a joke. He walks around with a bird on his head that died years ago.
The only character of any real interest is James Badge Dale’s Dan Reid. Dale, who’s also appeared in this summer’s “Iron Man 3” and “World War Z,” needs to have his own movie. He carries with him a gravity and charisma that’s led to him almost stealing the show from Robert Downey Jr., Brad Pitt and now Johnny Depp.
“The Lone Ranger” spends its bloated 149 minute runtime trying to be all things to all people. The tone is riddled with ADD, as “Ranger” goes from dark, R-rated territory to slapstick comedy to heavy drama to childishness sometimes in the span of a few minutes. Then again, what can you expect when you put together mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, the director and co-writers behind the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films and Disney all in one big summer movie.
Very little about “Ranger” makes sense. Take Butch Cavendish. William Fichtner is barely recognizable as he struts around, killing nearly everyone in his path in typical villain style. But then he cuts out a heart and eats it. In a PG-13 movie. If that’s not enough, the movie gets outright offensive during the climax. With the “Lone Ranger” theme playing, one of the bad guys perishes, bringing the orchestra to a loud, celebratory volume. If the film had played with a pre-9/11 naivety the entire time, this might have worked. But “Ranger” tries very hard at times to be edgy, adult fare, making a choice like this short-sighted and “for the kids.”
If “The Lone Ranger” had stuck to one of its many, many shifting tones, it might have been a good movie. Director Gore Verbinski, who once upon a time made entertaining fare like “Mouse Hunt” and “The Ring,” clearly is striving to push the boundaries of what can pass in a Disney production, but that’s the problem. Disney aims their films at kids. They don’t make R-rated films under the Disney banner. Any attempt to go edgy will be met with resistance, making the idea pointless in the first place. The same could be said for “The Lone Ranger” as a whole.