Monday, July 8, 2013

The Lone Ranger

I wonder what went through Johnny Depp's mind the moment he realized "The Lone Ranger" was going to be this generation's "Ishtar."
He's too talented and too experienced not to have grasped, perhaps watching the dailies one night, the magnitude of this multi-kajillion-dollar bomb. At some point, he must have accepted his fate and gone with it, like a drowning man who stops fighting for air. 

After ads and trailers, "The Lone Ranger" itself runs for two and a half hours. I spent the time in a state of slack-jawed stupefaction, stunned at the obsolescence of the material as much as anything. Releasing this movie in 2013 is akin to Disneyland's bringing back a long-shuttered attraction such as "America the Beautiful" or "Mission to Mars." It's the ride you got stuck on when you ran out of E tickets, and D, C, and B tickets too. There's no way to fake that it's cool or you're having fun. There is only embarrassment at being there.

I went at the insistence of a friend who said, "Forget the reviews. We'll probably like it. It's got Johnny Depp." About an hour in, she turned to me. Our mouths were hanging open. No words were required. Several dozen times, Depp turns to the camera as Tonto, mugs, and delivers a Borscht Belt line reading that would have gotten him scalped in the Catskills. The only thing missing is a rimshot. I kept seeing Gene Siskel turn to the viewer after a film clip and saying, "That's not funny." A handful of times, you wonder whether Depp, Armie Hammer and director Gore Verbinski made a career-suicide pact. There is a scene in which Depp and Hammer talk to a dead horse. Not a single shot - a scene! 

I'm not usually one to make such predictions, but I can't imagine we'll see Hammer in movies ten years from now. I just spent three of the longest hours of my life with him, and I literally could not pick him out of a police lineup. To say he lacks charisma is fundamentally wrong - because it puts him in the same sentence with the word charisma. After being given major parts in two massive flops (the first was as Clyde Tolson, Leonardo DiCaprio's secret lover, in "J. Edgar," for which the Razzie for Worst Makeup ought to have been renamed), I'll go out on a limb and say no studio will make Mistake No. 3.

"Ishtar" really is the most apt analogy. Here again are two guys wandering the desert practicing their Shecky Greene acts. The only difference is that that legendary loser actually had its winning moments. This one thuds on the screen like a ten-ton turkey. I couldn't even muster enough interest to decide whether the portrayal of Tonto could be construed as offensive. Yeah, probably.

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