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The Lone Ranger

Despicable Me 2

July 11, 2013

The Lone Ranger ** ½ PG-13

I will readily concede that director Gore Verbinski’s take on The Lone Ranger does have its fair share of problems and there is no denying it. The film is bloated, sometimes confusing, and contains more subplots and ideas than it really needs. Still, the biggest surprise for me was that I didn’t find it to be as insufferable as early reports suggested. What I expected to see was a film so bad that you would have thought that its creative team had committed a federal crime of some sort. Is it an instant classic? Well, the answer to that question is a resounding no, but at least the film has action sequences that are clearly shot and edited, something that, in my mind, puts it ahead of other summer movie offerings like Man of Steel, to name one. It is also gorgeously photographed and, as previously mentioned, stuffed with a surplus of ideas, immediately putting it ahead of many of the action films I’ve been subjected to this summer, or take it a step further, this year.

The story is framed around The Lone Ranger’s sidekick, Tonto (Johnny Depp, of course), relating the tale to a young boy some fifty plus years after the fact. I think the film probably could have skipped this story device altogether and would not have been worse for it.

Helena Bonham Carter, Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp
in The Lone Ranger

Most likely it was probably included so that Depp could get more mileage out of his penchant for wearing prosthetics on screen, but I digress. At any rate, the film begins with a rousing sequence set on a train, wherein ranger John Reid (Armie Hammer), is assigned the task of bringing villain, Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), to justice. Butch escapes, eventually killing John‘s brother and leaving John for dead in the desert. Reid is rescued by Tonto and eventually becomes The Lone Ranger as he sets out on a mission to find Cavendish and along the way locks horns with a corrupt official (Tom Wilkinson). On their journey, Tonto and the Ranger also manage to stumble across such varied characters as a woman (Helena Bonham-Carter) equipped with an ivory leg capable of firing bullets. The film’s conclusion is never in doubt, although it takes longer to get there than it probably should.

The performances in the film are mostly credible and get the job done, even if they’re a bit predictable at times. Especially Depp, who gets to do his Pirates of the Caribbean act again under the guise of portraying a Native American. The Lone Ranger may not be the most inspired work you’re likely to see this summer but it has it’s share of bright spots and left me with a feeling of ‘well, that wasn’t so bad after all, was it?’ Which is probably the most you could hope for in terms of something like this.

Despicable Me 2 PG

By Michael Rechtshaffen

AP Entertainment Writer

Stealing the moon can be a tough act to follow, as reformed criminal mastermind Gru and the creative team behind the $540 million-grossing 2010 smash Despicable Me discovered when it was time to dream up an encore.

After all, it was no mean feat to successfully juggle all that lunar lunacy with a delightful companion plot involving a trio of orphaned girls who, in turn, steal Gru’s heart. While the new edition doesn’t quite catch that inspired spark, there’s still plenty to enjoy here courtesy of those zippy visuals and a pitch-perfect voice cast led by the innately animated Steve Carell.

Expect the movie’s minions to once again turn up in droves in what is certain to be a stellar Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Despicable Me 2 finds Carell’s Gru more or less embracing his newly domesticated life after adopting Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and little Agnes (Elsie Fisher), even swapping his more nefarious activities for a startup jelly-and-jam-making operation. But he soon finds himself in a stickier situation when he’s dispatched by the top-secret Anti-Villain League to track down the perpetrator of a fresh heist involving a ginormous electromagnet.

Despicable Me 2

Setting up an undercover operation in a mall cupcake shop, Gru is reunited with fresh AVL recruit Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig, formerly the proprietor of Miss Hattie’s Home for Girls), with his suspicions set on the gregarious owner of a Mexican restaurant (a terrific Benjamin Bratt), who bears a nagging resemblance to El Macho, a notorious villain believed to have perished while riding a shark into a volcano with 250 pounds of TNT strapped to his chest.

It’s those sort of details that lend the Despicable Me franchise an irresistible Looney Tunes-style nuttiness, one even more prevalent this time around in the absence of a more substantial plotline.

Still, returning directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud and the returning writing team of Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul again maintain the energy at a brisk, buoyant clip, while Carell and the rest of cast add an extra layer of dimension to those expressively drawn characters.

Also amusingly returning to the fold is Russell Brand as rickety resident mad scientist Dr. Nefario, Steve Coogan as AVL head honcho Silas Ramsbottom and Ken Jeong as Floyd Eagle-san, now the owner of a wig store.

Back again to imbue the production with a pleasing visual and aural snap are production designer Yarrow Cheney and on-a-roll Pharrell Williams, whose springy songs blend nicely with Heitor Pereira’s bright score.

Those who foolishly opt to leave at the start of the end credits will be missing out on another entertaining 3D demonstration again led by a handful of those wacky Minions.

Despicable Me 2, a Universal release, is rated PG for, according to the Motion Picture Association of America, ``rude humor and mild action.’’

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