Rango – Review


Depp and Verbinski leave the high seas behind, and break into the wild west like no lizard has before!

While children will enjoy Rango for some of the visual gags, as well as the simple fact that every character in the film is an animal, reptile or amphibian of some sort, it’s adults, especially those with an affinity for the western genre that will gain the most satisfaction from this wild tale.

Rango (voiced by Johnny Depp) is a lizard who, when we’re introduced to him, is doing some soul-searching, asking the age old question, “Who am I?” In fact, at this point, he isn’t even Rango, he’s just a lizard who finds himself in one rather comfy, albeit lonely, scenario, before literally being thrown into one that is the exact opposite of all he knows. Luckily, being a chameleon, he has the ability to adapt to situations quite quickly, though I’d say that has more to do with his love for theatrical performing over the fact that his skin can change colour.

While wandering through the desert, Rango bumps into Ms. Beans (Isla Fischer), a fellow lizard who doesn’t take kindly to strangers. Though, with the help of his charm, Rango is able to win her over, at least to the point of catching a ride to the small, western town of Dirt. Though like any good western, this town is facing hard times, and is in need of a hero, and Rango — being the artistic master of disguise that he is — seizes the opportunity to reinvent himself. In doing so, gone is the self-doubting lizard, with no home, and no true direction, and into the world enters Rango, a heroic, lone-ranger of sorts, who travels the land, and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.

The problem with the town of Dirt is that they’ve run upon dry times, as the weekly water source no longer provides them with the hydration they need to survive. With hope running almost as dry as the taps, the Mayor (Ned Beatty) makes Rango the new sheriff, who is tasked with not only protecting what little water remains in the town, but also finding a new source before the town is lost for good.

Animated films have come a long way, and it’s not surprising to find one or two each year to be funnier than any straight up comedy put into theaters, though Rango is definitely not that. While it has a solid amount of laughs, this is a film that focuses on the genre its portraying, with nods to Sergio Leone, spaghetti westerns and even Chinatown, amongst others, and it does so superbly. Of course, the animated nature of the film will bring out families, and it must be said that this is a film better suited for older children, or teens, as the pacing of the film will no doubt leave younger kids feeling anxious, or bored.

Director Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy) took the actors to another level, in what the cast and crew refer to as emotion capture, instead of motion capture. While many animated features have the cast show up, and record their lines, often times when no other actors are present, regardless of if they’re in the scene or not, Verbinski chose to create a somewhat live-action, sound stage version of Rango in order to get the performances he wanted. Complete with various pieces of wardrobe here and there, the cast gathered together, acting out scenes, from which Verbinski and the animators would take their actions, and features, and use them when creating the actual film.

It paid off, as the acting is fantastic, full of life, and is just plain entertaining. Depp continues to astound, as you really have to wonder is there anything this man can’t do? His work as Rango really shows off some of his range, as well as just how much fun he’s having with the work he’s doing. Fischer is a great dance partner for Depp, as the two play off one another well. The rest of the townsfolk are also great, really bringing the town of Dirt, and the world around it, to life. Also notable is the great work of Bill Nighy (Love, Actually), as the villainous outlaw Rattlesnake Jake, as well as the work of an actor I love, doing a fine impersonation of another great actor who for one reason or another didn’t play the part himself.

Of course it must be mentioned that the animation in the film looks fantastic. Rango was the incredibly well-known Industrial Light & Magic’s first foray into animated features, and here’s hoping they keep at it. The setting, and lighting, as well as the characters themselves are exactly what you’d expect from a good western, and like all good animated films of late, you never really feel as though you’re watching an animated movie, and instead, are just captivated by the story it’s trying to tell.

Written by John Logan, who also wrote such epics as Gladiator, and The Last Samurai, Rango hits all the notes in the right key. Logan really captures the heart of the western, and delivers it in a way that those who know the genre will appreciate, and those who don’t will still enjoy. While the humour may not be as persistent as some may have wished, it ends up being the perfect mix with a story of a lizard with no name, trying to find his place in a town that needs a hero, just as much as that hero needs the town.

Director: Gore Verbinski
Notable Stars: Johnny Depp, Isla Fischer, Bill Nighy, Ned Beatty, Abigail Breslin
Writer(s): John Logan

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