Despicable Me 2
Here’s my film-watching confession: I’m a sucker for wacky, off-kilter supporting characters that are weird and cute. In other words, I love the Minions from Despicable Me, which makes their increased presence in Despicable Me 2 all the more welcome. (We’ll see how I respond when next year’s Minions spinoff comes out.) It’s a good thing the Minions are more key to the plot here, because Despicable Me 2‘s core story isn’t quite as creative as Despicable Me‘s was. If the first film focused in large part on the creation of a nontraditional family, the sequel tries to make that family “complete” by setting up Gru (Steve Carell) with Lucy (Kristen Wiig), an agent with the Anti-Villain League who recruits Gru to help find and stop a villain who’s stolen a mutating chemical compound. The amount of attention paid to the villainous plot is minimal: we end up getting a grand total of two suspects for the villain when an entire mall full of shopkeepers are supposed to be suspects. Still, Despicable Me 2 is a thoroughly entertaining, often hilarious film, and if nothing else, it makes next year’s Minions that much more heavily anticipated.
The Lone Ranger
Going into The Lone Ranger, the film already had one major strike in my book: the casting of white guy Johnny Depp as Tonto. Even assuming that the film could actually avoid Native American stereotypes, and even with the best of intentions from Depp, the casting was offensive. As it turns out, the casting choice is one of the less offensive parts of the film. Even with a top-notch cast and a proven director-actor team in Depp and director Gore Verbanski (the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films), The Lone Ranger is a disaster. Don’t let the Disney brand attached to the film fool you: this is not a film for children. The film is cruelly violent, at times in a borderline-R manner. The tone of the film is scattershot. Deadly serious scenes are followed by comedic bits. The film is interspersed with footage of an old Tonto telling the story to a young boy in the 1930s, even though it’s completely unnecessary to the film. The film is also part of Hollywood’s recent trend of making unduly lengthy popcorn flicks; The Lone Ranger has a runtime of 149 minutes. Finally, the film seems embarrassed at the character of the Lone Ranger, with one scene near the film’s end in particular serving as a proverbial middle finger to previous incarnations of the character. Ultimately, The Lone Ranger deserves to join in the fate of other recent Disney misfires like John Carter and Prince of Persia.