Friday, April 01, 2011


Year: 2011
Director: Gore Verbinski
Voice cast: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Ned Beatty, Abigail Breslin, Harry Dean Stanton, Bill Nighy, Stephen Root, Timothy Olyphant, Alfred Molina

Plot: A pet chameleon falls out of his terrarium and onto a desert highway, and eventually winds up in Dirt, a small town in the west that needs a new sheriff.

Review: The most interesting thing about Rango is the fact that it leans more towards a western than being an animated feature. Sure, it is animation, but the western element of it is most prevalent. Despite it being co-produced by Nickelodeon, I suspect Rango wouldn't be popular amongst anyone aged below ten, evidenced by the somewhat impatient kids in the audience when I went to see this. Westerns after all can be slow at times.

But is Rango any good? By golly, it is. Gore Verbinski, who directed Johnny Depp in all three Pirates Of The Caribbean films, directs him again here, except you only hear Depp's voice and not see him, though Rango looks a lot like Depp even as a chameleon. Under Verbinski's direction, the film is solid entertainment for 107 minutes as we watch Rango and other desert animals like lizards, turtles, frogs and mice interact as if we were watching Tombstone. The animation is also top notch, with every scale and hair looking very real.

The story begins, hilariously enough, with a quartet of owls in a Mariachi band telling Rango's story, and from time to time they pop up with a short musical number and some narration, which is brilliant. Rango, we learn, is a chameleon living in his own world in a glass jar, until he winds up in the desert next to the highway in spectacular fashion. On the advice of an armadillo, he heads for Dirt, and learns that they have a water problem. Rango accidentally becomes a hero after an encounter with a hawk, and becomes their sheriff.

However, when he attempts to solve their water crisis, he goes head to head with Dirt's conniving Mayor, voiced by Ned Beatty, who already did a great job playing the villain in Toy Story 3 last year, and does even better here. We also get the distinctive voice of Bill Nighy as a rattlesnake gunslinger and Timothy Olyphant gets to channel Clint Eastwood as the Spirit of the West. Depp is of course, charismatic even as a chameleon, and he owns nearly every scene he's in.

Overall, I enjoyed Rango, even when it was a tad slow at times. If you love westerns, you can't miss this. Of course, it's still more of an homage to westerns instead of actually being a western, but it works nonetheless. Good stuff. (4/5)

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