Release Date: March 4, 2011
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Director: Gore Verbinski
Screenwriter: Gore Verbinski, John Logan, James Byrkit
Starring: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Bill Nighy, Stephen Root, Ray Winstone, Beth Grant, Ned Beatty, Harry Dean Stanton, Alfred Molina
Genre: Action, Adventure, Animation
MPAA Rating: PG (for rude humor, language, action and smoking)
Official Website: Rangomovie.com
It’s hard to imagine any director throwing an original animated film idea out there in a world that’s being overrun by animated features. So what does Director Gore Verbinski do? He decides to take the classic way of telling a Western tale and make fun of it. And while the film is an overall joy to watch, I wonder about how good of a Western Rango actually is.
The Routinest-Tootinest Plot
Rango, who’s been cooped up for a good majority of his life in a tank, embraces a life of make believe, acting his way through scenario after scenario, dreaming of fame and glory. But one little bump on the road throws his dreams and fantasies into a horrid reality right smack dab in the middle of a desert nowhere…until he finds a small town called “Dirt” filled with plethora of varmits ranging from armadillos, to groundhogs, to rattlesnakes.
The town of Dirt is in the middle of a drought and no one seems to know why. Looking to fulfill his glorified fantasies Rango fills the town with false tales involving death defying and heroic acts. Convinced Rango can save the town and bring the water back, he is dubbed Sheriff. Rango relishes every moment of his new found fame…until he discovers a mysterious evil that may be more than he can handle.
Personally, I’m up and down in my opinion of the film overall. Rango definitely has more good than bad aspects about it, which should beg to wonder why I’m soambivalent. Verbinski is certainly no stranger to talented actors with his work on the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, so enlisting the voice talents of Jonny Depp, Isla Fischer, and Bill Nighy came with no trouble at all. But my cinematic snobbery can’t get past the indecisive nature of the story. Was this a film about putting aside one’s own self-interests to achieve the greater good, or was it a story about the evils of leaving the smaller communities in the dust just to obtain a profit?
Industrial Light and Magic is certainly making a name for itself in the animation world isn’t it? ILM has had major successes with the animation standard it’s imprinted in Moviedom with their work on films such as Transformers, Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Avatar. (That’s right, don’t thank James Cameron…thank George Lucas!) But now, within Rango we see a new development in animation quality that rivals the excellence that Pixar has set for so many years. The attention to detail of the different physical characteristics of the many different desert creatures defies the expectations of most film goers. Every move, twitch, and stagger made by each character was obviously analyzed in great detail to make sure the appropriate impact came across to the viewers. The critters were so real, at times I wondered if, within certain scenes, they actually used real animals in which the animators simply imposed an animated “critter cover” just to be sure they got it right.
Voice talents, as stated above, are spot on perfect. Depp and Fischer dominate the screen with the flawless performances, Especially with Depp showing off his ability to portray a wanna-be actor. (Let’s face it, Rango is in fact a chameleon which personifies the need to hide oneself in another light perfectly.) But the film’s success and richness is due to the entire ensemble of voice actors and how seamless the performances came across. Abigail Breslin who plays Priscilla, the pesky mouse always getting in Rango’s beady little eyes, took control of the screen every time she appeared. Ned Beatty plays a terrifically diabolical mayor in a half shell and Alfred Molina, with his wise-man, armadillo demeanor, gives the voice performance of a life-time. But of course, hats must come off to the upcoming face of Hollywood, Bill Nighy as the voice of Rattlesnake Jake. Unless you looked it up online, you’ll never realize it was him voicing the slithering outlaw.
Old school Westerns have always maintained this hokey, yet poetic persona. The Mariachi Band of birds who acted as the film’s narrators were a delight to listen to and watch as they sang about Rango, the “hero who has yet to enter into his own story.” And, the high point of the film’s mystical power was all culminated in this single character known as the Spirit of the West. This, more or less, reminded me of a much younger Clint Eastwood. Rango pokes fun at the typical Western by throwing every nook and cranny at us with little time to think about what films it’s referencing.
Speaking of Mariachi music, Hans Zimmer can do no wrong when composing film music. However, I had no idea he could create Western music that was so reminiscent of the classic film genre and still be so vibrant and dramatic.
I wasn’t quite sure what the film was trying to be. The film’s focus seemed to joggle around from this to that never allowing the audience to figure out what exactly the purpose was supposed to be. Maybe there were multiple themes that the film makers were hoping to convey by the film’s end. If that’s the case, I’m not sure I like it.
How many main bad guys can one film have? We started off by being introduced to the gang of bullies who Rango accidentally beat off with a series of trips and fumblings. Next we end up figuring out that it’s the mayor who seemed to have a hand in the evil plot; while the wheel chaired tortoise still ends up being the mainline villain, enter Rattlesnake Jake who takes the focus off the mayor for a good chunk of the film. We then are given a glimpse of the REAL evil, encompassed in a civilization filled with buildings, freshly mowed green grass, playgrounds, and (dun dun duh) sprinklers spewing water out of its spout which is siphoned from the surrounding desert towns. Four main villains = too many plotlines which also = an indecisive storyline.
For you parents out there don’t be fooled by the fact that this is an animated film or by the Nickelodeon banner plastered on the screen before the movie actually starts. This film, while still being fun and humorous, has a number of frightening scenes which mostly stem from the realistic physical attributes of the animals. But also be warned about the seldom swearing and implied crude humor. If your child can handle that kind of thing, bring them to see the movie, it’ll be fun. But if they can’t handle it…bring them anyway. They’re going to have to deal with it at some point right? Might as well get it done and over with sooner rather than later.
Wrapping It Up
I’d say, overall, this was a good movie. I’m never going to buy it once released on DVD, but it did embody Western folklore almost to a “T.” For me, personally, I would have preferred to see a little more consistency and les complexity within the plot itself.
Rating: 7 out of 10 stars