‘The Lone Ranger’ Getting Little Love From Critics

Mark Deming
Movie Talk
The Lone Ranger
The Lone Ranger

Johnny Depp piled on the makeup, director Gore Verbinski piled on the stunts, and, according to most critics, the result amounted to a pile of $*%#. The first reviews for "The Lone Ranger" aren't just bad — they're abysmal.

Depp is getting some of the nastiest marks from critics: "Depp proves that it's possible to overact without ever changing your expression," Marshall Fine wrote on "Hollywood and Fine." "There's a limit, it turns out, to how much Johnny Depp and a bucket of makeup can accomplish," said The Associated Press's Jake Coyle.

[Related: Johnny Depp on Becoming a Comanche: 'It Was Beautiful']

Indeed, the movie review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes is giving "The Lone Ranger" a very disappointing 21 percent (out of 100) so far based on 35 reviews, and similar site Metacritic has yet to log a single review categorized as positive.

The word "eccentric" pops up a lot in descriptions of Depp's turn as Tonto, with the Native-American warrior sporting thick face paint, a dreadlock-style hair style, and a headdress fashioned from a dead crow. As Tonto, he brings an offbeat sense of humor — but what worked for the role of his "Pirates of the Caribbean" Jack Sparrow doesn't appear to be working for the re-tooled "Lone Ranger" character. USA Today's Claudia Puig, even while saying Depp as "the best thing about the movie," was wary of his "smirking comic relief."

Significantly fewer critics have much to say about Hammer in the title role: The consensus so far seems to be that he looks solid and heroic without being very interesting. Todd McCarthy of the Hollywood Reporter sums up the prevailing opinions, declaring "The madly handsome Hammer certainly delivers the Ranger's requisite rectitude and straight-arrow determination, but the balance between full-on hero and camp figure teeters at times."

But even more than Depp or Hammer's performances, the initial reviews are hammering director Verbinski and writers Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott, and Terry Rossio, criticizing the $250 million production as too long, poorly focused, and short on fun. Peter Debruge of the Village Voice called the movie "Extravagant but exhausting … this over-the-top oater delivers all the energy and spectacle audiences have come to expect from a Jerry Bruckheimer production, but sucks out the fun in the process," and Moira MacDonald at the Seattle Times says, "It's not quite funny enough to be a comedy, nor quite exciting enough to be an action film - until the last 20 minutes or so, when it's a little too late."

"The Lone Ranger" is the first movie based on the famed Western character (which began life as a radio series in 1933) since 1981's "The Legend of the Lone Ranger," which was a notorious box-office and critical disaster. Given the initial press on this new adaptation, it may be another thirty-two years before anyone tries it again.

Watch Behind the Scenes Video of 'The Lone Ranger':