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Fear and Loathing of Johnny Depp


Man overboard! It’s time to lock the wig closet and see if the once-captivating actor can still actually…act.

Disney now knows it. And so do filmgoers who didn’t turn out to see “The Lone Ranger,” after reading the rotten-tomatoes reviews and watching the film’s what-the-hell-is-this-supposed-to-be trailers.

The affected whims of Johnny Depp have reached the saturation point. “The Lone Ranger” may go down as the “Heaven’s Gate” of the 21st century, in large part due to the once-fascinating actor’s duplicitously campy-solemn “costuming” of Tonto. Even the Europeans aren’t making up for the millions of losses.

Other than his sort-of menacing roles as “The Mad Hatter” in “Alice in Wonderland” and the title role in “Sweeney Todd”–where at least his campy latter-career Brando-aping made sense–I personally have found Johnny Depp, both as an off-camera figure of faux-rebel bohemia and as a Hollywood screen idol, tedious for some time now, ho-humming it through his impersonations of Hunter Thompson (what a great role model!) and of Anna Wintour…er, Willy Wonka, that is, in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (we’d take him in “Chocolat”), nearly gagging at his insipid Barnabus Collins in “Dark Shadows.” It began with his Ichabod Crane, with Depp mincing and preening as the hapless schoolteacher like Washington Irving meant him to be a Nancy-boy. From there, it’s been one raised-eyebrow too many.

The first installment of “Pirates of the Caribbean” was good fun, but now he’s waist-high yet again, riding another mega-paycheck, having rapped the fifth rollout of that Disney theme ride-turned-film franchise. Someone, please, clip Jack Sparrow’s wings?

Even in solid films such as “Blow,” Depp can’t help himself: get thee in that wig closet! In “The Tourist,” in which he was supposed to be playing it straight, he had on more eye makeup than Angelina Jolie. Both were terrible. He even swishy-ed around in full drag in Julian Schnabel’s “Before Night Falls,” playing a little lady named Bon Bon.

There’s a hypocrisy to it all. We already know that Brad Pitt can’t act; he chews scenery, while chewing on one snack or another in nearly every film he’s in–a chuckle of vapidity. Brad Pitt, meet Ryan Gosling, and learn from him the subtleties of character nuance.

But while deeply earnest actors like Tom Cruise are deemed un-cool for their religious affiliations and for putting in a hard day’s work–adding up to always-memorable screen moments–Depp rolls with coconut Keith Richards, quotes the suicidal Hunter Thompson (who also was a shell of his former talent in the years before he took his own life) and play-acts like some sort of Up-the-Man rebel, while traipsing through every role, as if all his director’s are men overboard.

Sight gags, kooky dead-bird hats, makeup tomfoolery, and prop-shop hijinks doth not make an actor. The film-going public keep coming back for more. Maybe not much longer. Depp, give us a break, and let’s see if you can play a contemporary every-man, make him come alive without the help of special effects and campy affectations. Somehow, Jimmy Stewart managed it. John, we know you’re only dancing. – Steve Garbarino, editor, Room 100