The Lone Ranger (PG-13)


Movie Info

Rating: * * 

Cast: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Wilkinson, Barry Pepper.

Director: Gore Verbinski.

Screenwriters: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Justin Haythe.

Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Gore Verbinski.

A Walt Disney studios release. Running time: 149 minutes. Sequences of intense action and violence, and some suggestive material. Playing at area theaters.

There’s a rollicking Wild West adventure buried deep inside The Lone Ranger, a bloated, mega-budget revival of the story of the iconic gunslinger and his Native American sidekick Tonto. The movie is a spirited entertainment whenever it manages to take flight, such as in two enormous action sequences that bookend the film set aboard speeding locomotives, or the occasional comic exchanges between the masked hero (a square-jawed, endearingly earnest Armie Hammer) and his bizarro mystical partner Tonto (Johnny Depp in subdued oddball mode, buried under pancake makeup and wearing a dead bird on his head as a hat). When The William Tell Overture, the Ranger’s theme song since his radio days in the 1930s, finally blares on the soundtrack after being sneakily withheld for much of the picture, the effect is so rousing that you levitate in your seat a little bit.

But the rapture never lasts long. Director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer have adopted the more-is-better approach they used in the Pirates of the Caribbean series in The Lone Ranger, crowding the movie with so many extraneous characters and irrelevant subplots that the film becomes an endurance test dotted by patches of fun. There are not one but three villains — a scheming railroad baron (Tom Wilkinson), a murderous outlaw (William Fichtner) and a corrupt U.S. marshal (Barry Pepper) — who inflate the script with scenes of knotty, dull exposition. The story is narrated in flashback at a diorama exhibit by an aged Tonto to an entranced little boy, and every time the movie cuts away from the action and back to the kid, the pacing stalls. There’s no purpose to the narrative device other than to allow an unrecognizable Depp to perform in old-man makeup.

There are also two female characters (Ruth Wilson as the Ranger’s sister-in-law and Helena Bonham Carter as a one-legged brothel madam) who are here for no apparent reason other than to keep the movie from being an all-boys show. Carter’s scenes in particular cry out to be excised: Her fake leg, which is made out of porcelain and harbors a secret shotgun, is a beautiful prop that the filmmakers obviously adore. But there’s no room for such indulgences in a movie that already runs a punishing 2 1/2 hours.

Made at a reported cost of a whopping $250 million, The Lone Ranger certainly looks wonderful, with beautiful John Ford-style vistas, a score inspired by Ennio Morricone and action set pieces that minimize the use of CGI whenever possible. The film is also tinged with subtle touches of fantasy (the rumored werewolves never appear, fortunately, but there are some carnivorous bunny rabbits).

But the tone is all over the place, wildly veering from broad comedy to surprisingly dark horror — a sign there was never a guiding vision behind the picture other than a movie poster and Depp’s bankability. And for all its attempts at historical relevance (the story explores everything from the exploitation of Chinese workers to build the railroads to Native American genocide), there’s no gravity or weight to anything in The Lone Ranger. Everything is flung at you at the same pitch and speed, at times relegating the two heroes to supporting characters in their own adventure. Hammer and Depp make an appealing pair — they have genuine chemistry, and they’re funny and likable together — but they deserved a movie that matched their personalities. This plodding, overwrought picture isn’t it.

Read more Reeling with Rene Rodriguez stories from the Miami Herald

 <span class="cutline_leadin">‘Guardians of the Galaxy’:</span> Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and Chris Pratt form an unlikely team of space-jockey superheroes.

    Guardians of the Galaxy (PG-13)

    Watching the zippy, ebullient Guardians of the Galaxy, you wonder “Why can’t all comic-book movies be this much fun?”

Dad (Ethan Hawke, right) plays around with his son (Ellar Coltrane) in a scene from “Boyhood.”

    Boyhood (R)

    Contrary to most dramas, which tend to dwell on traumatic or seismic events, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood argues that life is a compilation of small, everyday moments, an accumulation of the feelings and thoughts and emotions we start to gather from the time we are children. Shot over the span of 12 years, with the cast getting together for a few days annually to shoot some scenes, the movie charts the growth of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from the ages of 5 to 18. Mason has an older sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the director’s daughter) and he has two loving parents, Mom (Patricia Arquette) and Dad (Ethan Hawke), who are divorced and live apart. Their relationship can be contentious at times, but they both care deeply for their kids.

 <span class="cutline_leadin">‘Life Itself’:</span> Gene Siskel, left, and Roger Ebert get into one of their countless arguments during the taping of their TV show.

    Life Itself (R)

    There are scholars who blame Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel for dumbing down film criticism with their thumbs-up, thumbs-down approach, the same way they blame Steven Spielberg and George Lucas for ruining movies with the success of Jaws and Star Wars. But Siskel and Ebert accomplished just the opposite: They popularized criticism and introduced it to the masses via their PBS show in which they spent a lot of time debating (and fighting) over movies before delivering their final, yes-or-no verdict. The first version of their show, which was titled Sneak Previews and aired on PBS in the late 1970s, led me to read Pauline Kael and Film Comment and American Film and the Miami Herald’s late, great Bill Cosford as a kid. Suddenly, my nascent love of movies blew up: Movies weren’t just something you watched for entertainment. Sometimes, there was a lot to find beneath their surface.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category