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The Lone Ranger

Gore Verbinksi's re-boot is a matinee-style Western into which a preening Johnny Depp has inserted himself

Who are these masked men? Tonto (Johnny Depp) and the Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer)
Who are these masked men? Tonto (Johnny Depp) and the Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer)

There are those who find Johnny Depp's cartoonish, heavily made-up pantomimes an amusing and welcome addition to a remake, and those who don't. Depp's latest round of bewigged mannerisms in The Lone Ranger is sure to put even more daylight between the two camps.

Gore Verbinski's reboot — which, at 150 minutes, takes almost as long as it took to win the West — is an origin story for the masked hero (Armie Hammer) and his Comanche partner, Tonto, as they join forces to address a checklist of issues. These include: Tonto's vengeance for a long-ago "bad trade"; capturing the outlaw who killed the Ranger's brother; throwing a wrench iton the expansion of the transcontinental railway; rescuing the perennially imperiled woman and child; and setting up a new movie franchise devoted to the continuing adventures of the Lone Ranger and Tonto.

This is a Disney movie, produced by cinematic-mayhem master Jerry Bruckheimer for maximum megaplex impact, so it's as bloated and formulaic as you'd expect. (Wrecks-and-effects count: three train derailments and four explosions.) Which brings us back to Depp, who plays — and I do mean plays — Tonto. Excusing the cannibalistic villain, Depp's Tonto is the twist designed to juice up this golden oldie. 

And here's where things get odd. Without Depp, you have a fair old-school Western, with a dashing hero, a pair of bad guys — one grubby and violent (William Fichtner), the other unctuous and urbane (Tom Wilkinson) — some kicky action scenes, a laugh or two, and magnificent Southwest scenery. 

But that's presumably not entertaining enough for today's post-ironic audiences, and thus Depp (who's also an executive producer) jumps in, indulging his full range of patented shtick. Here's a white guy with mud on his face playing an Indian; he's got Jack Sparrow's hairdo and a dead bird on his head. (You will never ever stop staring at this bird.) Add a random pidgin-English accent, a mincing walk, much eye-rolling and mugging, and it's ... Johnny Depp. Some will love it; others, like myself who are weary of Depp's similar characters, will find Tonto/Depp a constant distraction.

Thus, The Lone Ranger is a matinee-style Western into which a preening Johnny Depp has inserted himself. (Depp plays a second, even more made-up role, in the film's incomprehensible framing device, in which a super-old Tonto comes to life in a carnival diorama labeled "The Noble Savage." It's in the running for the worst scene of 2013.)

Early on, Tonto tells the Lone Ranger, "There come a time, kemosabe, when good man must wear mask." Hey, Johnny Depp: "There come a time when good actor must not wear mask."

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