There is a new sheriff in town. He calls himself Rango. And this is one bad-ass, gun-slinging lizard. And let me tell all you town folk out younder, this is a must see animated 2-D movie that stars Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean) voicing the title character and is directed by Gore Verbinski, the same partner in crime responsible for that franchise.
The film opens with this ugly green chameleon in a Hawaiian shirt who is flung out of a SUV in the Mojave Desert. At this point, he is a lizard with no name seeking out his destiny and blending into his surroundings while seeking out his identity. Sounds like something right out of Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood spaghetti western.
On his journey through the desert he stumbles across a not-so-healthy armadillo
voiced by Alfred Molina. He is then given Map-Quest directions as to where to seek water and possibly ‘find himself’. This is where he discovers a little practically bone dry western town called Dirt, ran by a not-so-healthy Tortoise Mayor (Ned Beatty) and his creepy side-kick Rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy).
With a heroic act of killing a menacing Hawk terrifying the town, Mr. Lizard is rewarded by becoming Rango, the town’s sheriff. It also helps his ego when he is befriended by a lizard named Beans (Isla Fisher). His life changes from this point and his fantasies come to life. Rango sets off with a posse to solve the mystery of the towns dwindling water supply.
The film pays tribute to many western films and borrows heavily from “The Magnificent Seven” as Rango promises stability but at the same time is destructive failing to keep the town orderly. But Rango is out to prove himself because the town of Dirt needs him as their new hero. Does he let down? Does he fulfill his duties? The answers are foreseeable with such a common idea.
The characters all interact with one another including Abigail Breslin’s walkie/talkie rat character, Priscilla. However near the film’s end, Rango strays back into the desert after his friends commit fraud against him. This is where the unimportant Spirit of the West (Timothy Olyphant) makes a cameo and suddenly there is a worthless CGI Clint Eastwood image handing out advice to Rango. That did nothing for me and I even think the kids in the screening audience were unimpressed as well. For that matter, Bad Bill (Ray Winstone) was equally miscast. What was the purpose of that? I don’t get it. It made no sense.
The film should stay more focused on the kids since it is geared towards them but with adult themes. That is the films only weak spot from another wise excellent animated film of which thus far should be up for at least best animation for next year’s Oscars. Of course, I have been wrong before and that keeps it interesting.
Although the film is a tad bit slow, I think it worked in the film’s favor as maybe the director was aiming towards the slower feel of some classic westerns of which I can appreciate. This also is one of Johnny Depp’s best works to date and he pulls it off perfectly. The animation, colors and all other elements of Rango is top notch and I contribute that to Industrial Light and Magic. Another nice added touch was the tumbleweeds and canyon chase scenes. Something out of a Roadrunner cartoon. OF course those are Warner Bros. cartoons and this is a Paramount film. But you catch my drift and then you catch Rango at theaters March 4 in wonderful cheap 2-D. Maybe it will set the pattern that some of the expensive 3-D offerings aren’t worth it when you can do just as good, if not better, in cheaper 2-D.
What was Paramount thinking or not thinking that they didn’t release Rango in time for this years Oscars? This is one of the best films thus far of 2011 and will remain in my top ten. The close attention to detail and modeling in this film is visually stunning and I look forward to a sequel. If Toy Story can do it three times, so can Rango.
Rango is rated PG, runs 107 minutes, and is theaters as of now. It is directed by Gore Verbinski and written by John Logan. Be aware some of the dialogue might be verbally offensive to some children as there is mention of who is going to get murdered and who is going to hell and of course western shooting. But don’t let that deter you. It didn’t me. But I’m a critic and I’ve suffered worse fates through some movies that should have been shot and sent to hell. Rango is NOT one of them.
By Hustlin Bob Higgins 4 1/2 stars