Hollywood doesn’t need discounts

The Lone Ranger is galloping into New Mexico and he just can’t get here quickly enough. He’ll bring Johnny Depp who will portray his Native American sidekick, Tonto. One might wonder why they couldn’t have found a Native American to play Tonto, but that is an argument for another day.

Johnny Depp is a hugely gifted actor of unlimited character versatility. I was disappointed he passed on the Christmas season blockbuster I attended, The Chipmunks Chipwrecked. Depp reportedly took a 20 per cent salary cut to star in The Lone Ranger, and that is good. We all have to sacrifice in these tough times.

Many of us first saw The Lone Ranger in the 40s where we went to a theater maybe called The Globe, paid nine cents to get in, saw two movies, a newsreel, and a bunch of cartoons. Mom gave us an extra nickel to munch on Necco Wafers.

The movie is based on a masked fictional ex-Texas Ranger who trots around the Old West fighting injustice, Tonto always at his side. Well, bring it on! We’ve got plenty of injustice to battle in New Mexico, and I am not just referring to the rip-off retirement plan our legislators granted themselves in one of those rare moments of political greed.

There is another reason we should all shout “Hi-yo Silver! Away!” to the filming of The Lone Ranger in our Land of Enchantment. Previous New Mexico cowboy shoot ‘em ups haven’t all been cinematic classics. One in particular, The Righteous and the Wicked, was so bad as to be funny from beginning to closing credits. Check this one out on at your local Redbox, sit back and enjoy.

Some Westerns are designed to be funny. Remember Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles? This was generally a guy flick mostly remembered for its flatulence humor appealing to us guys who go through a certain juvenile stage generally ending when we turn 87. No guarantees.

Righteous, though, sets out to be serious but turns out to be seriously funny. It was written and directed by Albuquerque native Craig Butler and most likely populated by New Mexican extras and, for all I know, maybe the leading characters as well. At any rate, Righteous is “ours” which puts the local critic in the same boat with the local small town sports editor whose high school football team, the Dragons, keeps going 1 for 8 every season.

“Despite a valiant defensive effort, the Dragons were edged 72-0 by the determined visiting Warriors in a Friday night showdown,” he writes.

Truth is, the Dragons are horrible, and so is The Righteous and The Wicked. None of the Roger Eberts of the world reviewed this one, but just about all of the hundreds of amateur reviews totaled a half star out of five.

Casting is a mystery. Check out the leader of the gang of misfits. He looks and talks more like your local bank loan officer. It’s kind of like casting Woody Allen in a western and having him walk around the set calling people “pilgrim.”

It may or not be righteous that this movie and The Lone Ranger get state taxpayer incentives. Some say that is a good program, others bristle at the idea. As for me, I’m worried about Johnny Depp. With that 20 per cent salary cut, the poor guy will likely be looking at New Mexico’s food stamp program.

Look at me, playing movie critic. I’m not smart enough to write and direct a movie. If I did it would be based on the life story of the community nerd. I’m thinking George Clooney for the title role.