“Rango” is the animated lizard western adventure from director Gore Verbinski who also directed the first three Disney “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies (as well as “The Ring” and “The Mexican”.)
Rango, the lead character of the movie (voiced by Johnny Depp,) is a chameleon who fancies himself as a thespian. He likes to perform for his imaginary friends, but he yearns for more. After a series of mishaps, Rango ends up in the outlaw town of Dirt. The townsfolk (tortoises, frogs, rodents, birds and the like) are skeptical of the new outsider. But in the local saloon, Rango does his best spaghetti western impersonation, “The name’s Rango,” and wins them over. The town is running out of water, and its residents are becoming desperate. Rango, it turns out, gives them hope. So they make him sheriff. He sets out to uncover who is stealing the town’s water. He meets adventure and resistance along the way from a variety of unsavory bad guys, including characters voiced by Ned Beatty, Ray Winstone and Bill Nighy as Rattlesnake Jake (the scariest movie snake since “Anaconda”.) Will Rango succeed and become the town’s hero before they run out of water? Or will he let them all down? And what will he learn about himself along the way?
The computer-generated animation in “Rango” (courtesy of George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic special effects studio) is startling, crisp and bright. The lighting effects and character details are rich, as are the sound and music. The filmmakers paid attention to cinematography. So we’re treated to wonderful swooping shots, quirky angles and astonishing camera movements that put us right in the middle of the action, such as with a big chase scene through a desert canyon. Technically, the film is a minor marvel.
However, the film has a few problems. “Rango” slows down for some too-wordy exposition in several scenes. Thankfully, the film returns from those moments without belaboring the pain too much. The story is interesting, but in the end, not overly involving.
The voice cast, which includes Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin and Harry Dean Stanton, is good. There are more wild west accents here than in an entire season of “Gunsmoke.” Johnny Depp proves his talent once again. His voice characterization as Rango is spot-on and entertaining. The movie’s dialogue is sometimes sharp and clever. However, it’s safe to say that the kids in the theater I was in (plus some of the adults) did not get all the references.
Speaking of references, another fun aspect of “Rango” is how the film pays homage to so many other movies. I noticed references to “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” “The Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Apocalypse Now,” “High Noon,” a couple of the “Star Wars” movies, and most of Clint Eastwood’s westerns. I suspect there are many more that I didn’t notice.
I wasn’t completely wooed by “Rango.” I wanted more story and action sequences, but it was worth the ticket price to see the rich animation on the big screen.
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
2011, Rated PG, 107 minutes, Animation, Action, Adventure