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Picks and Pans Main: Movies

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The Lone Ranger

Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Helena Bonham Carter | PG-13 |


And here I was worried The Lone Ranger would merely sully the man’s good name. Alas, when Tonto (Depp) finds the Ranger, a.k.a. John Reid (Hammer), left for dead, he schleps our unconscious hero straight through a fresh, steaming pile of horse manure. The scene is brief, but that hardly matters, since the filmmakers drag the Ranger through crap all over this misguided update.

If you’re old enough to recall the TV series, put away your memories of a masked crusader for justice. This Lone Ranger is so breathtakingly stupid and naïve that he regularly lets bad guys get away. (No wonder Tonto calls him a “dumb white man.”) Depp is fun—though not quite a Captain Jack delight—as the reluctant sidekick, covered in war paint and spouting faux-Native American woo-woo. But the rest of the movie is a mess, from the tangle of a plot to the pointless characters (I couldn’t justify Bonham Carter’s presence if I tried) to the brutal violence and random inane moments, as when a litter of vicious bunnies pops up. Twice.

What the film gets right are the fights on speeding trains—low-tech but Rube Goldberg-like in their complexity. More of those and less of, well, everything else, and we could’ve had a great popcorn movie. But this pile of horse poo needs to go away. Hi-yo, Silver.

The Way Way Back

Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell | PG-13 |


Duncan (The Killing’s Liam James) may be naturally sullen, but it doesn’t help when Trent (Carell), the man dating his mom (Collette), tells the kid that on a scale of 1 to 10, Duncan is a 3. To escape Trent’s nasty undermining, Duncan gets a job at a water park under the dubious tutelage of Owen (Rockwell), the manager who probably should’ve grown up by now. As a coming-of-age narrative, Back doesn’t tread new ground, but the amusing film does offer great performances. Carell is icily effective, while Allison Janney whoops it up as Trent’s neighbor, one-person party Betty.

Despicable Me 2

Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Russell Brand, Benjamin Bratt | PG |


Gru (Carell) and his girls return in this fizzy follow-up that should hit kids in the funny bone. The reformed evildoer gets a chance to do good as he pairs up with Lucy Wilde (Wiig), a spunky agent in the Anti-Villain League, to root out the criminal mind behind the heist of a transmogrifying goo that turns Jekylls into Hydes. Carell and Wiig’s wildly entertaining vocals help compensate for the thin plot. Still, for my money, this Despicable is as good as the first.