Sometimes a film comes along from a once gloried "dream team", one that's been through a troubled production period, has a bloated budget, and finds itself at the receiving end of good kicking from the critics almost irregardless of the film's genuine quality.

It happened in 1999 with Will Smith starrer Wild Wild West, reuniting Smith with Men In Black director Barry Sonnenfeld, it hoped to re-capture the success of that 1997 comedy, but had extensive re-shoots after poor test-screenings. Critics were eager to deflate Smith, who had become the King of the Blockbusters, scoring hit after hit for a few years running.

Now it is the turn of Johnny Depp, previously having achieved unprecedented success with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, here he is reuinted with the first three film's director Gore Verbinski, again under the auspices of uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and with Ted Eliot and Terry Rossio once more contributing to the script. Much like in Pirates, Depp's character Tonto is essentially the sidekick, but here his "breakout" status is pre-ordained, people seem to forget the fear that executives had with regards to Depp's performance as Captain Jack Sparrow and the welcome surprise when audiences responded to it.

Tonto is first encountered as an old man, oddly part of an exhibit at a travelling fair in 1933, here he tells the tale of the Lone Ranger to a wide-eyed young boy in a cowboy outfit.  We flashback to the Old West, where law abiding John Reid (Armie Hammer) is travelling to meet his ranger brother. Coincientaly he's onboard a train with, not only Tonto but, wretched criminal Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), who, thanks to his gang, manages to break free.

John accompanies his brother Dan (James Badge Dale), as they track Butch and his gang, ending in tragedy. Discovered by Tonto, and chosen by an alleged spirit horse, John is taken under wing as a partner in a quest for vengeance that is somehow tied into the enterprising Latham Cole's (Tom Wilkinson) plan to build a transcontinental railroad.

The plot has similarities to both the aforementioned Wild, Wild West and Ted Eliot and Terry Rossio's The Mask Of Zorro (a far more successful attempt at bringing a classic outlaw into contemporary cinema), but where it strays from both is in its almost languorous pacing.

Despite all the problems there is, somewhere in the midst of everything, a fun film here, and aspects of it do often bob to the surface. The movie is funny, it has a nice off-beat sense of humour, equally cartoonish and dry, it also has a grimy, dirty darkness to it that makes its villains pleasingly horrid and allows a few of the predictable plot twists to have an emotional wallop. Elsewhere its references are intelligently chosen, though sadly not entirely realised, whilst in set-up the final train chase has everything going for it, it never quite meets the lunatic brilliance of say Buster Keaton's The General, or even the finales of Back To The Future Part III or The Legend Of Zorro.

Instead of the film propelling forward with a sense of drive and purpose the picture is hampered by a 149 minute run time, with obvious edits dragging their heels across the screen. Given a bit more momentum other flaws could easily be overlooked, unfortunately there's a certain sense of self-satisfaction, perhaps derived of the Pirates sequel's similarly slow pace, that often stops the film dead in its tracks.

On the plus side Armie Hammer is a charismatic, charming and likable hero, he has a quality reminscent of Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride that makes him easy to root for. His relationship with Tonto is played mainly for laughs, with the partnership not quite given a moment to really build an affection for one another. Depp is ok in his part, delivering a variation on his now established ticks that more often than not are entertainingly anachronistic, though sometimes mawkish and overtly, self-consciously "autre".

It's not as bad as its critical drubbing overseas suggests, but it's one of those ludicrously expensive blockbusters (much like last year's John Carter) that doesn't quite seem to be enough considering the amount of time, effort, energy and money that has clearly gone into it.