Release Date: March 4th, 2011 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Gore Verbinski Actors: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty, Alfred Molina
ango” is basically one giant homage to all the great westerns, from the spaghetti west of Sergio Leone to the comedic parodies of Bob Hope. A multitude of references to a plethora of classics makes an appearance throughout the film, and even those that don’t recognize these oftentimes clever allusions will find entertainment in the action, sly comedy, and hilariously twisted character designs. “Rango” may be the typical fish-out-of-water protagonist trying to discover his own identity, but when transplanted into an old west town inhabited by miserly turtles, gun-toting rattlesnakes, and hillbilly varmints, all while plagued by intermittent surrealistic visions, profound metaphors, and pessimistic narration from an avian mariachi band, his story seems anything but normal.
The desert town of Dirt finds itself in a crisis of epic proportions. A terrible drought has swept over the land, the bank’s water supply is almost dry, and outlaws torment the town’s citizens. Luckily for Dirt, the heroic lizard Rango (Johnny Depp) has just arrived to bring about a new order of justice and peace as the latest local sheriff. Unfortunately for both Dirt and Rango, the wily chameleon is actually just an aspiring actor desperate to play the role of a fearless gunslinger. When his theatrical antics find him appointed an official lawman, Rango must gather all his courage and acting savvy to save Miss Bean’s (Isla Fisher) ranch, recover the town’s precious water supply, and fend off depraved outlaw Rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy).
The character designs in “Rango” range from comically bizarre to truly inspired and end up stealing the show from each creature’s individually eccentric personalities. From bug-eyed toads and mangy cats to wheelchair-bound turtles and skeptical possums, the wide variety of animals are brought to life with such vivid visuals that you might find yourself laughing before they even speak. Many of the animals are hideously deformed and disfigured, or their characteristic features so exaggerated that you won’t even be able to tell what creature they represent. A bird with an arrow in his eye, a rabbit missing an ear, and an overly hairy mouse mark just a sampling of the curious and intriguing creations that share the screen. The few humans that make an appearance are pure caricatures of their actor counterparts and nearly every design screams of innovation and ingenuity.
In addition to the brilliant character designs, the texturing and animation reach a new level of authenticity thanks to the work of Industrial Light and Magic, a company known for their expertise in special effects. Overall, with its clever references to classic western films and spattering of dark humor, “Rango” will almost certainly appeal as much to adults as it will to children. In fact, aside from the slapstick action sequences and goofy misadventures of the title lizard, the vast majority of jokes, surrealistic dream sequences, and intelligently intricate dialogue seem geared for a more mature audience with a firm appreciation for the genre the film so meticulously spoofs.
– Joel Massie