Saturday, March 05, 2011


Written by John Logan
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Voices by Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty and Alfred Molina

Rango: No man can walk out on his own story.

As I waited for RANGO to start, I was forced to sit through a number of trailers for this year’s other expected animated features. All are unnecessary sequels hoping to cash in on previous success and they all look forced at best. All are of course in 3D as well to ensure the largest returns possible. It all got me wondering where the originality has gone. Even RANGO is yet another animation where animals walk and talk like human beings but somehow this lizard manages to stand out amongst the competition. And he does this despite his best efforts to blend in.

When we first meet Rango, he is self-described as someone who “has yet to enter his own story”. To be fair, your story options are somewhat limited when you’re living in a tank. Fortunately for Rango, and at the precise moment when he realizes he is desperately in need of “an unexpected event to propel the hero into conflict,” he finds himself suddenly trapped in a chain of events that leads him to his new life in the Mojave Desert. Now, Rango is no ordinary lizard. More specifically, he is a chameleon and designed to blend in, but has been on display his whole life. With no idea who he actually is though, Rango has always had to rely on theatrics and drama to distract from himself, which appears to have taken its toll. The other particularly incredible thing about this lizard? He is voiced by Johnny Depp.

Depp is the epitome of neo-cool. He has always been cool by constantly coming off as the embodiment of the freshest take on more classical ideas of cool, without ever looking like he is trying. Here, Depp channels the sprawling cinematic drawl of the Spaghetti Western, with help from his former PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN director, Gore Verbinski. Depp brings his humbled awkwardness along with him and when you couple that with Rango’s incredibly deep-rooted insecurity, you’ve got a lizard in one heck of an existential crisis. While all of this elevates RANGO to a height of animated sophistication that is both thought provoking and hilarious at times, it is also decidedly adult. In fact, an owl mariachi band repeatedly reminds us throughout the film that we are watching the story of our hero’s demise. Taunting children that death is coming seems a bit frightening to me but the owls are awful cute so the news doesn’t seem quite so harsh.

Naturally, Rango meets a bunch of other critters in the desert, most of them not so cuddly, and he must help them save their town by playing the hero they so gravely need. In order to do so though, Rango must actually become the hero instead of just playing the part. Some of RANGO’s imagery and themes may be scary for younger audiences but it’s Rango’s angst over not knowing who he is that will be most frightening for adults. And seeing as how some us never actually get around to pointing that mirror inward, maybe its not such a bad idea after all to get people asking the question a little earlier in life.


Unknown said...

Watched this last night and composing review now for the blog - absolutely loved it: gorgeous animation and very funny, especially the nods to Chinatown, Once Upon A Time In The West etc.

I do wonder whether it'll be a success though. It's not really a kids' film and while it has great appeal to the cine-literate I'm not sure it'll be that interesting to the 5-movies-a-year types.

Great review, by the way.

Black Sheep said...

I agree fully. The animation was gorgeous and the humour was offbeat and plenty. I also think it lacks a mass appeal but hopefully word of mouth with carry over to the appropriate audience.

Unknown said...

Word of mouth is certainly gone round and I haven't met one person who has anything less than good things to say about this film.

The references sound like great fun and I have to admit I just dismissed this film as another below average animation before a single review had come in. Can't wait to watch it now.

Black Sheep said...

Hey hey .. and welcome back! I just added your new blog to my blog roll.

I too was not expecting much from Rango. The trailers are a mess for it. You can tell they did not know how to market it. I am sure you will enjoy it.

Unknown said...

Hey Joseph, it's good to be back. Thanks for the add.

You're right those trailers are a mess the main selling point seems to be that Johnny Depp is in it!

Thankfully I'm hearing about this film from the right sort of people.

InMovies said...

The graphics in this animation were outstanding! Was in awe the entire time. Johnny Depp was, as expected, cleaver and engaging throughout. People always seem to associate animation movies with a younger audience, but Rango really takes it to a new level!

Black Sheep said...

Hey InMovies .. yes, the animation work was spectacular most of the time. I remember being constantly surprised at just how much cinematic effort was being made. Rango will surprise a lot of people, I think.