By: Mary Fran Bontempo

TheLoneRanger2013PosterJohnny Depp is back as Captain Jack Sparrow in the latest installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise, although this time, he looks like an Indian and answers to the name, Tonto.

Well, not really; it just seems that way.

The Lone Ranger, produced by the same team at the helm of the Pirates movies, is the latest vehicle to showcase Depp and his quirky take on a classic character type. Problem is, it’s the same loopy, wise-cracking take every time.

Depp isn’t believable for a single minute as an American Indian, which dooms his interpretation of Tonto from the get-go. The actor plays the character with a wink to the audience throughout, undermining any chance for the movie-goer to get lost in the film. It’s Johnny Depp, in cakey makeup; it’s never loyal sidekick, Tonto.

Sure, the twist is to make Armie Hammer’s Ranger the bumbling, reluctant hero to Depp’s sly “savage.” Occasionally, it does work. Hammer is appealing and handsome and some of the action is thrilling, the comedy light-hearted.

But mostly, the movie is a bloated mash-up of lots and lots of stuff that never seems to be able to make up its mind about what it wants to be. Helena Bohnam Carter’s brothel madam with a leg made of ivory that contains a hidden rifle is particularly perplexing. She shows up at opportune moments, lifts her skirt and shoots bullets from her leg. Huh? And the premise framing the tale where a young boy in a Lone Ranger mask happens upon a wizened old Tonto who comes to life in a diorama to tell the boy the tale is just, well, stupid. And totally unnecessary.

It’s part western, part futuristic comedy, part sweeping romantic saga, and part one of a series, at least it seems set up that way. You can almost see the money people behind the movie drooling at the prospect of another successful franchise a la Pirates.

If they’d been less ambitious and cut the film by about an hour of its running time, it might have stood a chance. But between the over-stuffed story line and Depp’s mugging the part of the iconic Tonto, The Lone Ranger is as dead as the annoying crow Tonto wears on his head and “feeds” throughout the movie.

Here’s hoping the next time we see Johnny Depp, he’ll be out of the desert and back on the high seas, right where he belongs.