I really wanted to love The Lone Ranger…
Most of us grew up watching the original black and white (the final season in color) TV series starring good guy, Clayton Moore as the masked ex-Texas Ranger who, accompanied by his faithful Indian sidekick Tonto, played by Jay Silverheels, fought injustice in the American Old West. From the first stirring stanzas of “The William Tell Overture” to the cries of “Heigh Ho Silver, away!” we loved those episodes.
Popular from radio shows, books and movie serials, the long running western – from 1946 to 1957 – kept us glued to the screen in anticipation of the next 30 minute installment. Now a big screen version is out, starring Armie Hammer (“The Social Network”, “Mirror Mirror”) and Johnny Depp but the resemblance leaves much to be desired.
The Walt Disney Company has assembled their “Pirates of the Caribbean” dream team – Depp, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and director Gore Verbinski to try to do for westerns what they have done for pirate movies – create a clever new franchise.
Since Johnny Depp has top billing it should come as no surprise that Tonto won’t be staying in the background murmuring “Yes Kemosabi.” Depp (wearing somewhat disturbing white makeup) jumps into the role of the spirit warrior with both moccasins, drolly and adroitly matching the masked man, move for move, with a dry and deadpan delivery that is almost reminiscent of Buster Keaton. That’s the good news.
Hammer as the earnest lawyer, pressed into service as a Texas Ranger, turned heroic vigilante, has the thankless role of having to appear pretty and be a foil for Depp. To be fair, he does have movie matinee good looks, and the only thing in the desert that is whiter than his hat are his teeth. The only so-so supporting cast includes Tom Wilkinson as a corrupt railroad man, Helena Bonham Carter (once again saving the budget thousands of dollars in hair styling costs) as a flame haired madame, and an unrecognizable William Fichtner, as the beyond horrific bad guy, Butch Cavandish.
Although “The Lone Ranger” is a natural choice for a summer blockbuster, with the requisite thrills and laughs, it faces huge competition at the box office, and is thisclose to being a good film. Why? The film clocks in at just under 2 ½ hours. There was a reason the earlier serial versions were 30 minutes long, the action was fun and fast, and kept you eagerly anticipating the next episode.
The Bottom Line: The original black-and-white serials are alive and well and living on DVD. This might be a great time to gather the kids and grandkids and show them what life was like before color TV.
2 hr. 29 min. Rated PG-13 (for sequences of intense action and violence, and some suggestive material)