PLOT Rango (Johnny Depp) is a pet chameleon thatís 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 heís soon made sheriff, putting him at odds with the mayor, whoís scheming to steal the townís 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. Itís 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 heís 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). Iíd also wager that RANGO, more than any other animated flick Iíve seen in a long time, owes a lot of itís 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, whoís decked out in a Hunter S. Thompson style Hawaiian shirt, and featuring the kind of bug eyes good olí 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 itís 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 Zimmerís 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, ďThe Man With No NameĒ character even has a nifty little cameo, although, in a bit of a cheat, the voice isnít 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 thatís 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 isnít exactly up to that level, itís still pretty darn good, and a terrific Saturday matinee for pretty much anyone.
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