Gore Verbinski favors grunge in 'Rango.'
Release Date: March 4, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG
From the director of Pirates of the Caribbean comes RANGO, featuring Johnny Depp in an original animated comedy-adventure that takes moviegoers for a hilarious and heartfelt walk in the Wild West. The story follows the comical, transformative journey of Rango (Depp), a sheltered chameleon living as an ordinary family pet, while facing a major identity crisis. After all, how high can you aim when your whole purpose in life is to blend in? When Rango accidentally winds up in the gritty, gun-slinging town of Dirt â a lawless outpost populated by the desertâs most wily and whimsical creatures â the less-than-courageous lizard suddenly finds he stands out. Welcomed as the last hope the town has been waiting for, new Sheriff Rango is forced to play his new role to the hilt . . . until, in a blaze of action-packed situations and encounters with outrageous characters, Rango starts to become the hero he once only pretended to be. With a cast that includes Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone and Timothy Olyphant as the Spirit of the West, Rango is an exciting new twist on the classic Western legend of the outsider who saves a town â and himself in the process. – Paramount Pictures
Ballad blasting princesses, cute, cuddly sidekicks covered in soft fur, and magical kingdoms soaked in overwhelming pastel are all elements not present in Rango. This is not to say that the film is devoid of any kind of music and love in that an owl mariachi band narrates the story while two lizards, rather than a duo of airbrushed royalty, begin to fall for one another. The supporting characters too, can be described as “cute” if one’s opinion of the adorable happens to include slimy fat toads, pet rats, and one-eared hares. Director Gore Verbinski’s foray into animation embraces the deformed and the ugly; favoring damp, dirty, and reptilian over traditional teddy bear. This chosen art direction is well suited to the classic spaghetti-western world in which Rango is set.
The film begins with a close-up of a lizard named Lars (Johhny Depp). Delivering some of the funniest voice-work of his career, Depp’s Lars acts out various scenes of complete randomness with a headless Barbie and a dead cockroach as props. The audience quickly learns that Lars is a pet trapped in an aquarium, where his crazy imagination is the only thing he’s got going for him. All of that changes when a car accident breaks him free and throws him into the Mojave Desert. He soon comes across a small town in the midst of a severe drought where innocents are helpless to its outlaw inhabitants. And here the classic western begins as Lars lets his imagination run wild, eventually becoming the new town sheriff, Rango. The movie has everything a western should have: gun standoffs, shootouts, campfire stories, riding into the sunset frontier, and even Clint Eastwood’s classic Man with No Name character makes an appearance! Excellent voice work by a talented cast including Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty, Alfred Molina, Timothy Olyphant, Ray Winstone, and Bill Nighy, help in bringing the west to life. And when the film isn’t a western, it’s a dark comedy or a mystery involving water and a corrupt mayor that would make any fan of the classic, Chinatown, smile. Despite it’s old-western charm, the movie isn’t perfect. The screenplay tends to ramble off base at times resulting in a sluggish middle and the story doesn’t have enough dramatic arc to ever really get fully behind Rango’s quest. With that said however, the movie manages to polish everything up in the end, still packing enough action, adventure, humor, and originality to warrant a fun trip to the theaters.
Is this a trip for the whole family? Toddlers may wish to stay clear in that Verbinski doesn’t hold back on his images of terrifying rattlesnakes at all. And that an armadillo/road-kill missing his entire midsection initially sends Lars on his quest, should give some kind of clue to the film’s overall dark-comedy tone. For everyone else? Thanks to some incredibly beautiful animation, older kids will have fun with how creatively cool and weird this unique adventure truly is and for adults, there’s a sequence where the townspeople march like zombies to a weekly ritual, every Wednesday at noon, where the mayor proclaims the event to be a “time of deliverance.” Little touches on religious debate such as that one in addition to various clever movie references are just enough to satiate our appetites for decent filmmaking. Being pretty much the only animated feature not distributed in 3D these days, Rango proves that a good time at the theaters can be reliant on focusing on originality and imagination rather than whether or not four-million dollars should be spent on conversion gimmickry.