PLOT Rango (Johnny Depp) is a pet chameleon thats left to fend for himself after his terrarium is shattered in a traffic accident. He stumbles upon a small desert town called Dirt, which is inhabited by other desert creatures, and lorded over by a corrupt mayor, Tortoise John (Ned Beatty). In an attempt to woo Beans (Isla Fisher), an Iguana, he passes himself off as a legendary gunslinger. His plan works all too well, as hes soon made sheriff, putting him at odds with the mayor, whos scheming to steal the towns water supply. To take care of Rango, he hires Rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy), a ruthless hired killer.
REVIEW: RANGO continues my theory that most successful CGI animated films may pass themselves off as kiddie fare, but are really just as much for their parents. Its directed by Gore Verbinski, who, long before he directed the initial PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN trilogy, started his career with a kids film, one of DreamWorks' first features, MOUSE HUNT.
RANGO probably owes much more to that smaller scaled film that any of the PIRATES installments, with this getting back to the manic, darkly comedic edge Verbinski showed earlier in his career. Despite the fact that this is large budgeted kiddie flick, it feels like Verbinski was able to imbue this with more of his own personality and style than anything hes done in years, giving RANGO a very unique vibe.
At times, RANGO almost felt like what a Pixar movie might be like if it was made by the Coen Bros., with lots of eccentric animated characters (voiced by an eclectic supporting cast, including Harry Dean Stanton, Stephen Root, Alfred Molina, and Ray Winstone). Id also wager that RANGO, more than any other animated flick Ive seen in a long time, owes a lot of its success to the vocal stylings of its leading man.
Despite only featuring his voice, RANGO is a Johnny Depp flick through and through. This is obvious from the first second we lay our eyes on Rango, whos decked out in a Hunter S. Thompson style Hawaiian shirt, and featuring the kind of bug eyes good ol Hunter (as played by Depp in FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS) saw on casino dwellers while on a psychedelic ether binge. In fact, Depp as Thompson, even gets a quick cameo in the film, which gave the hipper parents in the audience I saw this with the biggest laugh of the film.
To the parents reading this, rest assured, RANGO is not a freaky CGI animated acid trip. Once Rango gets to Dirt, it actually settles down into quite a nice little parable about courage, and is actually rather sweet. My only misgiving about recommending this for kids is that its a tad atmospheric, and slowly paced (at first) for a kiddie flick, and it could possibly bore younger children. Older children, and parents will love it though.
Western fans will get a special kick out of RANGO, with Hans Zimmers score being very reminiscent of early Ennio Morricone. Of course, the stranger wandering into a town controlled by villains is a classic western plot device, done by everyone from Alan Ladd, to John Wayne, to Clint Eastwood. Speaking of Eastwood, The Man With No Name character even has a nifty little cameo, although, in a bit of a cheat, the voice isnt supplied by Clint, but rather Timothy Olyphant- who nevertheless does a credible Eastwood circa A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS impersonation.
I really enjoyed RANGO, and for me thats saying a lot, as I tend to be easily dismissive of a lot of CGI animated films, unless they happen to be from Pixar. While this isnt exactly up to that level, its still pretty darn good, and a terrific Saturday matinee for pretty much anyone.
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