The new "Lone Ranger" movie might seem like it's a throwback to a long ago era but it'll really remind you of a much more recent movie franchise instead.
Welcome to "Outlaws of the Caribbean." Truth be known, this movie has more in common with the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise than it does with the original Lone Ranger story. That should come as no surprise, of course, since Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski first hit it big together with the Pirates movies. But it's a little disappointing that they didn't find a way to distinguish one from the other.
Like the Pirates sequels, this Lone Ranger is a free-wheeling and good-natured adventure story that meanders aimlessly for most of its 2 and-a-half-hour length. It relies heavily, probably too heavily, on Depp's charm and charisma. He plays Tonto, the Indian sidekick to Armie Hammer's Lone Ranger, although he's no sidekick.
It amazes me how much character and humor Depp can wring out of so little - Tonto is barely there on the page - but even so, there's not much to grab onto for an audience.
Depp reportedly agreed to play Tonto as a way to right the imbalance in the relationship between him and The Lone Ranger. Armie Hammer's Lone Ranger is a city boy who's not very good with guns and it's up to Tonto to teach him the ways of the world. It's Tonto who badgers him into wearing the mask, for instance.
But that's not to say Tonto is exactly the take-charge type either. Depp's Tonto is often as befuddled as The Lone Ranger. Their relationship is definitely more one of convenience than affection.
Where Depp's pro-Indian stance comes out most clearly is in the plot. Railroad barons deliberately lie and cheat the Comanches out of land needed for their silver mines and railroad tracks.
But whatever political correctness Depp thinks he was injecting into a traditional Western tale is undercut by the lackadaisical storytelling. The movie's full of silly action sequences and spectacular stunts but it's so lacking in dramatic tension, it's hard to stay engaged.
Overall, "The Lone Ranger" suffers from a bad case of "the milds." It's mildly amusing, mildly subversive, mildly mystical, and mildly adventurous. It's so damn mild even the William Tell Overture can't save it.