The Lone Ranger Reluctantly Back on The Saddle

Lone Ranger Poster

The Lone Ranger is back on the saddle, albeit reluctantly, in Gore Verbinski’s reboot of  yesteryear’s beloved western. In “The Lone Ranger,” the Disney film produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, we are re-introduced to two iconic characters of American pop culture: Tonto and Kemosabe. In this film, an aging Tonto recounts the story of how a man of justice, John Reid, becomes the masked hero who must “never take off the mask.”

A younger generation, perhaps completely unaware of this masked hero’s existence before this film, will ask themselves, “What’s up with the mask?” as do many of the characters in this film. The mask is made from a black piece of leather from John Reid’s dead brother’s vest. Nothing high tech or special about the mask. But for folks in those times, the strip across the eyes completely hid the wearer’s identity — or so we are made to believe.

Johnny Depp is Tonto in this modern take of the memorable Western tale, but he does not live up to his character’s name in any way, shape or form – he is the mastermind behind the masked Ranger, John Reid, played by Armie Hammer (“The Social Network”), whom he names Kemosabe (which sounds a lot like que no sabe, or he who doesn’t know, in Spanish).

In fact, one of my favorite lines in this updated film based on the popular radio and TV series of the 1930s and 1950s is, “Do you know what Tonto means in Spanish?” Kimosabe asks his Indian sidekick at the end of “The Lone Ranger.” Perhaps not everyone got this joke judging by the few chuckles I heard in the theater. In case you didn’t get it either, Tonto in Spanish means stupid. Something else you may not know is that at least in Mexico, where I grew up, Tonto’s name was changed to Toro (Bull) for the translated TV series.

However, in this film, Kemosabe is the running joke because Tonto tells the bumbling law man that it means ‘wrong brother’ after realizing the street-smart sibling was killed off, and wasn’t chosen to be brought back to life by the mysterious white spirit horse (later renamed Silver). Tonto is stuck with a book-smart lawyer as they try to rescue a town from the greed and corruption that has overtaken its leaders.

Those too young to understand the significance of the Lone Ranger and Tonto in pop culture history, will only get to know the less-than-dynamic duo portrayed in this reel; the hero really isn’t the cowboy in the white hat riding a white horse, instead it’s the belligerent sidekick drenched in war paint and feathers who saves the day, the town, the damsel in distress, and the masked man himself (from himself and his enemies).

Though Tonto and the Ranger fight off a seemingly endless slew of enemies in this film, they do it the old fashion way: fist punching, gun slinging, and jumping on and off colliding trains. These kind of antics may not be the special effects today’s young movie goers (or even older ones) are accustomed to getting from their on-screen heroes. So I don’t anticipate the PG-13 set will rush out to purchase T-shirts or lunchboxes with these characters emblazoned on them as they did Iron Man or The Avengers.

But don’t let these opinions sway you either way. This film has some redeeming qualities.

As you might expect from a Disney film, there is a trace of the traditional mixed in with current humor and language. But this version of “The Lone Ranger” isn’t the epic and triumphant return of the masked man those familiar with the story might expect – even with Verbinski (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) leading the pose – yet it still delivers enough special effects, thrills and zingers to keep you and your family suitably entertained.

Other familiar faces in this film include a voluptuous Helena Bonham Carter, William Fichtner, and Tom Wilkinson.

For movie goers, bloated budgets sometimes influence our expectations of a film’s potential to be worth our money and time. The Lone Ranger’s $225 million production costs is a case in point.  Though this film delivers plenty of bang for the buck, the over-the-top production price tag doesn’t guarantee overall success at the box office.

In spite of wedging this film into this summer’s movie line up between G and R rated blockbusters, “The Lone Ranger” is a film that can cater to those not quite ready for the R rated material of apocalyptic zombie gore, or are too old for furry blue monsters or tiny unintelligible droids.


Disappointingly, the most famous line from this decades-old TV show, “Hi-yo, Silver, away!”  is uttered once in the movie. Hammer delivers it atop his magnificent bucking white horse to The William Tell Overture epically reverberating in the theater. But this classic moment is short lived, and the masked man quickly fades back into his less-than heroic character leaving viewers wanting more.

“Don’t ever do that again,” Tonto tells The Lone Ranger after the cowboy is done grand standing on Silver.

“Hi-yo Silver, away!” is the one line we needed to hear a few more times during the film to send us riding off into the sunset with a smirk. Even if Tonto doesn’t agree.

The Lone Ranger opens in theaters July 3.

Rated PG-13 for gore, violence, and suggestive material.

Action, Adventure, Western

Run Time 149 minutes.

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