William Tell Overtures: "The Lone Ranger" and "Despicable Me 2" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 07 July 2013 12:00

Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer in The Lone RangerTHE LONE RANGER

Youll have to wait more than two hours for it, but in director Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger, you’ll finally be treated to a scene that makes sitting through this hugely budgeted action-adventure-Western-comedy totally worth your ... .

Oh, who am I kidding? The movie still isn’t worth your time. But as the scene in question is the only truly exhilarating one in the whole of this wildly over-produced and exhaustingly frenetic outing – an updating of the beloved radio and television serial that famously asked, “Who was that masked man?” – I might as well give it the praise it deserves.

You should have no trouble figuring out when this sequence is starting, partly because it’s the moment when all of the film’s divergent narratives and mostly ill-groomed characters (and they are legion) finally coalesce during one extended, blockbuster-minded set piece involving an out-of-control locomotive. But it’s mostly because, after the quick tease of the tune heard in the film’s opening minutes, it’s the first and only time that we’re treated to the familiar trumpet blare and galloping relentlessness of the famed “William Tell Overture” – a musical cue that, in its context here, seems to inspire a kind of slapstick perfection.

While the Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer, showing off the purdiest white teeth in the wild, wild West) and his stoic Native American sidekick Tonto (Johnny Depp) attempt to avert a train heist, foil the machinations of a villainous land baron, and save a damsel in distress all in the same breath, composer Gioachino Rossini’s legendary overture underscores, and seems to egg on, the escalating mania. And while I can’t imagine that Verbinski actually had Rossini’s music playing on-set during what must have been ridiculously complicated and cacophonous days of shooting, the joyful spiritedness of the score, for a few blessed minutes of screen time, appears to have seeped into the pores of everyone involved (including editors Craig Wood and James Haygood, whose work in this sequence is particularly stellar). Train cars are separated from one another and roll along opposing tracks, shotguns blast through windows, our masked avenger races his horse Silver on top of the speeding locomotive, and the whole of the action is so spectacularly over-the-top – and, in its exactingly choreographed way, so funny – that you wind up wishing the scene would never end.

In actuality, it’s the rest of the film that seems never to end, if only because experiencing a two-and-a-half-hour migraine can easily feel like forever. You’re given a not-so-subtle hint to the movie’s noisy leanings beginning with the very first scene, in which a little kid is shown snacking at a traveling carnival, and the bizarrely loud foley-artist work suggests that it’s granite, and not peanuts, that the boy is munching on. But beyond Depp’s occasionally inspired (if fundamentally unsurprising) deadpan mugging, and the happily low-key seediness provided by the likes of Tom Wilkinson, Helena Bonham Carter, Barry Pepper, and Stephen Root, there’s precious little about Verbinski’s latest that isn’t headache-inducing. From the needlessly complex – and needlessly voluminous – subplots to the excessively grand CGI effects to the shockingly ugly (if generally bloodless) violence, everything about this Lone Ranger seems designed at twice the ideal scale, and the looniness of Verbinski’s grab-bag, anything-for-an-audience-reaction approach leads to frequent incoherence; in too many instances, the pounding of your head is accompanied by your scratching of it. (What’s with the screeching bunnies with the sharp fangs? What’s with the horse in the tree?) In the closing minutes of this theoretical franchise-starter, the Lone Ranger finally exclaims his “Hi-Yo, Silver!” catchphrase, and Tonto replies to the outburst with an aghast “Don’t ever do that again.” I’m guessing that unless audiences respond to Verbinski’s effort with less collective apathy than was clearly felt at my screening, he may not get the chance to.

 

Despicable Me 2DESPICABLE ME 2

It was not, to put it mildly, the best idea in the world to make Steve Carell’s hysterically cretinous bad guy from 2010’s animated smash Despicable Me a mildly-cranky-at-worst softie in the new Despicable Me 2. Nor was it a welcome inspiration to give Carell’s heavily accented Gru a rather weakly designed romance opposite Kristen Wiig’s gal Friday, nor an underwhelming adversary in Benjamin Bratt’s preening villain El Macho, nor quite so many struggling-single-dad issues; during too much of this slapstick offering by directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, your amusement is waylaid by a sugary, Disney Channel blandness. (Coffin, Renaud, and screenwriters Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul were aware of the title of the movie they were sequel-izing, yes?) But at least the parties responsible for the continually endearing, hilarious antics of the Minions are worthy of applause, and the Minions themselves worthy of a repeat viewing or two. Whether amusing toddlers at a fairytale-themed birthday party or teaming up for a lovely, helium-filled rendition of All-4-One’s “I Swear” (a number only slightly more enjoyable than their earlier stab at the Chiquita Banana theme song), these squawking yellow sidekicks are sensational fun, even if their combined presence does underscore the inherent dullness of nearly every Despicable Me 2 scene they wind up stealing. Give the little buggers their own movie. And please, God, let it be a musical.

 

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