Hot on the heels of my semi-annual rundown of the best and worst in movies, we already have a leader in the clubhouse for the worst movie of the next six months.

I can’t even begin to wrap my head around how terrible The Lone Ranger is. It’s a monumental achievement in suck… a seemingly peyote-fueled mashup of The Apple Dumpling Gang and Unforgiven with traces of Back to the Future Part III and The Searchers (but none of their positive attributes).

Weighing in at a monstrously bloated 2 and 1/2 hours, it’s crafted (using the term loosely) as some sort of grand Western epic, but it ends up playing more like a goofball Disney comedy… except for, you know, the cannibalism, prostitutes, vomit, and bullet-riddled bodies.

The Lone Ranger is ostensibly the story of how in 1869 John Reid (Armie Hammer) left his post of district attorney in Colby, Texas, to join forces with the Comanche warrior to bring a band of outlaws to justice. But for some inexplicable reason, it’s framed by a downright odd flash-forward to a carnival in 1933, where a really old Tonto (Johnny Depp) tells the tale to a wide-eyed youngster.

There are also a subplots about railroad expansion, silver mining, an Indian massacre, and a spirit horse, but none of it comes together in any kind of cohesive way.

Depp, coming off a string of disastrous outings (Dark Shadows, The Rum Diary, The Tourist, just to name a few) doesn’t do anything to redeem himself here. Wearing cracking facepaint and saying “kemosabe” over and over again only makes me wish I could have the old Johnny back– the one who made Jack Sparrow as entertaining a character as there was in the 2000s. And let’s just suffice to say that Armie really puts the “ham” in Hammer.

Director Gore Verbinski (who helmed three of Depp’s four Pirates of the Caribbean movies) does have flashes of talent here, and he actually seems to be the only person who put in any kind of concerted effort; some of the visuals and stylized sequences are exceptional. But even he, it seems, couldn’t be bothered to definitively decide what kind of movie he was making. Just a few minutes after a nightmare sequence that could easily be mistaken for a Nine Inch Nails video, he gives us a slap-sticky bit with a horse swigging beer behind a saloon.

The inherent issue, though, is with screenwriting “team”. After Pirates scripters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio took a shot, Justin Haythe (Snitch) was brought in for a re-write. Apparently the producers kept the worst ideas from both drafts, threw them in a blender, and are now handing them to us as some kind of schizophrenic smoothie.

Among them? Outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) uses a six-inch blade to carve a man’s heart out of his chest and take a bite. An unconscious Reid is dragged head-first through a pile of horse poop and then wakes to wonder why his hair smells funny. Yes, two roles for women are included, but neither of them amounts to a damn thing; Helena Bonham Carter is a madam with a hollowed-out prosthetic leg that doubles as a shotgun, and Ruth Wilson is a damsel in distress whose sole purpose is to live in constant fear of being raped. And did I mention the psychopathic, mutant bunny rabbits? Yeah, they’re there, too.

The real shame in all of this (forgetting all of the above) is that the climactic, final 15 minutes show what The Lone Ranger really could have been– a fun, light-hearted, action-packed summer film… an “Indiana Jones meets the Wild West” romp. But by the time we get there, we’ve had to sit through more than two hours of the most bizarre and uneven filmmaking that we’ve seen in a good long while.

Hi ho, Silver. Stay away.

1/5 stars