The Lone Ranger has a serious case of identity crisis. On the one hand, Disney’s newest joint venture with Pirates of the Caribbean producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski is a goofy, family-friendly homage to its predecessor that works best when the theme music is blaring and the slapstick is abundant. On the other hand, The Lone Ranger is a regularly violent picture that, regardless of its titular character’s staunch credo against firearms, seems to shoehorn jarringly adult elements into the plot. I don’t have kids, but if I did, I would try to avoid conversations about cross-dressing rapists, rabbit cannibalism (bunnies that eat each other… seriously), or even the mild racism apparent throughout this Disney movie.
Cue the deep voice narration… In a time where the Wild West was still being tamed and honesty and justice were in short supply, young District Attorney John Reid believed in the law. What starts as a search for an escaped felon turns into a quest for vengeance as John’s adventures with Native American warrior-and-companion Tonto transform Reid from a naive lawman into a legendary bringer of justice, a classic American outlaw. The Lone Ranger. And if you act now, you can see the whole trilogy over the next 5 years if the box office gross is high enough!
Flat-out errors in the script aside (easy facts like “the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad took place in Utah, not Texas” jump out), the plot is trite, the drawn-out action sequences are ground to a halt by the flashback narrative device, and the main character is an absolute buffoon until two-thirds of the way through this 149-minute marathon. The result is an over-complicated story with such tonal inconsistencies, they should sell Dramamine with the admission ticket.
It’s not all bad; Johnny Depp’s Tonto is largely effective (if markedly similar to Captain Jack Sparrow) and able to garner genuine laughs from little dialogue. Armie Hammer, aka The Winklevoss Twins from The Social Network, does his best to keep up as The Lone Ranger, but make no mistake: this is Tonto’s story, and wisely so. The cast is rounded out with really strong performances by Tom Wilkinson, Ruth Wilson, and brilliant character actors like William Fichtner, James Badge Dale, and Helena Bonham Carter (number 6 for her and Depp in case you were wondering).
The Lone Ranger would have been a good flick if they cut out about 35 minutes and stuck to a tone. The performances are rock-solid, there’s fun to be had in many of the sequences, and the production value is clearly first-rate. Unfortunately, the extra bloat is yawn-inducing (even at its loudest) and unnecessarily forces borderline inappropriate subject matter into an innocent story.