"The Lone Ranger": Buster Keaton Was Missed

The Lone Ranger Yes, Johnny Depp plays an American Indian in Gore Verbinski's The Lone Ranger. So did Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man, a film whose structure this movie appropriates, with an elderly Tonto (Depp) unreliably narrating the tale of how hunky nerd John Reid (Armie Hammer) becomes the title character. But it's Depp's show, and his mugging performance sets the tone for a picture which frequently panders to the cynicism of modern audiences. It's suggestive of the film's tone, which uncomfortably mixes kid-friendly slapstick with a high but bloodlessly PG-13 body count. The Lone Ranger only really comes alive in a climactic train chase set to "The William Tell Overture," but the music's rousing energy is offset by the heavy CGI. Part of the fun of westerns has always been seeing real people doing real stunts, especially around real trains, but pixels are boring, and there's not much train action in The Lone Ranger that Buster Keaton didn't do for real in The General in 1926.

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Correction: Dustin Hoffman does not play an American Indian in LITTLE BIG MAN, but rather plays a Caucasian raised by the Cheyenne. My bad. The parallels are still there, though. And, of course, I'm aware that "The William Tell Overture" was used as the theme to all previous incarnations of THE LONE RANGER. (It's not included in the trailers for this movie, probably because the particular generations Disney is marketing the film to neither know nor care about it.)

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