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Mr. Brown Verses The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger, based off the TV series starring Clayton Moore as the titular Lone Ranger and Jay Silverheeds playing the masked bandit's sidekick, Tonto, looked like a sure thing from Disney for two reasons. First, the movie brought back the same writing/producing/directing team which gave us the financially successful Pirates franchise: scribes Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot; director Gore Verbinski, his first live-action film after winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature for Rango back in 2011, and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. And second, the casting looked promising. Johnny Depp, Captain Jack Sparrow himself, re-teamed for the fifth time with Verbinski, putting his spin on Tonto. Armie Hammer, great as both Winklevoss twins in The Social Network and as Hoover's secret love interest in the biopic J. Edgar, was slated to play John Reid, the deputized Texas Ranger who survives an ambush by a ruthless outlaw gang, only to be return as a masked vigilante out for justice on his great white horse. Add in established actors like Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner and Barry Pepper rounding out the cast, and this looks like a home run for a company that was already flying sky high with the success of Iron Man 3 and in it's future endeavors with Episode VII, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Avengers: Age of Ultron, among other films due out within the next two years. How could this not end up as a big summer blockbuster?

Simple: The Lone Ranger just isn't fun to watch. It's a Pirates of the Caribbean-clone without any of the excitement, the thrills, the on-screen chemistry between the leads, or any sense of self-awareness about how silly the whole ordeal is! 2003's The Curse of the Black Pearl was a smashing success, largely because the filmmakers played it as a fast and loose action-adventure film and based on the strength of Depp's performance as a charismatic anti-hero who's looking out for the next payday and for his own skin. Here, he's playing Tonto, a Jack Sparrow-clone with a bird on his head for a hat. He finds John Reid (Armie Hammer) alive in the desert and left for dead after Butch Cavendish (Fichtner) and his gang ambush the lawmen out to bring him to justice, but not before Reid is subjected to watching helplessly as Butch eats out his brother's heart right in front of him. I'm dead serious, folks. Disney, the company known for it's family-friendly movies, depicts the villain in an act of cannibalism. Ok, over the past decade, the slate of live-action films under the House of Mouse have gotten heavier, more intense and more violent after Black Pearl, but those movies were still accessible and marketable to parents and their kids. The Lone Ranger stretches the PG-13 rating to its limits, almost to the point when one wonders why this didn't get an R-rating.

Tonto and Reid reluctantly team up to find Cavendish and bring him in, but Depp and Hammer never develop a rapport. There are jokes which Tonoto makes at Reid's expense, but there's no wit behind them. The sense of playfulness and giddy excitement which made the first Pirates movie a hit is nowhere to be seen here. There are explosions, trains crashing and colliding, and gunfights but the sense of excitement is absent. Hell, Hans Zimmer breaks out the William Tell Overture, the theme to the Lone Ranger series, but even that feels tacked on and forced. It's as if the filmmakers were trying to remind us that this is, in fact an adaptation of the beloved series and not some generic, bland, overstuffed, and overlong CGI wank-fest that would put Michael Bay to shame. Sorry, but we noticed, and we didn't bite.

* star out of ****


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