Rango reviewed

CGI-animated Rango is definitely one of the oddest films you’ll watch this year. It’s also one of the most charming and imaginative... largely because of its idiosyncrasies. Director Gore Verbinski’s first foray into animation is a lot of fun, and although the film is yet another example of Johnny Depp in maximum eccentric mode, it’s the most likeable he’s been in ages.


Essentially a quirky comedy Western (with MANY winking references to its star’s filmography), Rango centres on a good natured, but lonely, pet chameleon (voiced by Depp) who is stranded in the Mojave Desert. He stumbles into the decrepit town of Dirt, an enclave for desert creatures slowly dying because of a mysterious water shortage. Depp’s chameleon is a shape shifter in personality as well as species, and with the bravura of a born performer he adopts the identity of tough loner Rango – who is immediately proclaimed sheriff by the gullible, brain-addled inhabitants of Dirt.

Much of the humour in Rango in fact stems from the title character’s deception of the idiot townsfolk as he attempts to do good. It’s a comical case of the blind leading the blind. Fulfilling the action quota meanwhile are at least 2 fantastic chase sequences – the best of which is a canyon run involving inbred mole men, attack bats and a posse of Dirt citizens masquerading as a theatre troupe. Weird but incredibly well choreographed and involving.


Rango also has a very intriguing animation style, with distinct, often hard to identify creatures. It’s character design as you’ve never seen before, and it comes from live-action special effects gurus Industrial Light & Magic, who have chosen to apply realistic mottled textures to the anamorphic inhabitants of Dirt. The overall effect is original and memorable, if a little eerie.

There has been much debate about Rango’s appropriateness for young children. Personally I wouldn’t recommend this Nickelodeon movie for kids under10. This is not because of the film’s violence – which is of bloodless Looney Tunes variety – but rather because of the mature level at which the movie functions. Although there are entertaining action scenes and slapstick humour, there are also a handful of very surreal sequences. More importantly, a lot of Rango’s humour stems from dialogue well above the comprehension of kiddies, such as references to paradigm shifts and sultry actress Kim Novak. So, yes, very young children could easily be bored, or alternatively unnerved by creepy looking, or intense, critters like Rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy).


As a quirky animated film, Rango is much more enjoyable than 2009’s Fantastic Mr Fox, which irritated by pouring so many forced affectations onto Roald Dahl's classic story. Rango feels more like a less cutesy take on classic Don Bluth or darker Disney 80s animation. If you’re in the market for an animated film that’s different from the usual hyperactive, hyper-colourful fare, then Rango is a good option. Just perhaps don’t bring the kidlets.

Comments

Byron Loker said…
I just loved this film. I'm interested that you also identify Rango as a chameleon, which I did too, yet the other characters refer to him many times as a lizard, which would be funny, a case of mistaken identity, yet Rango never tries to correct this, which you would expect, to complete the joke.

I saw a behind the scenes clip in which the actors also refer to him as a lizard. And there was only one scene in which Rango uses the colour changing powers of a chameleon, (are there lizards that can change colour?) and you would have expected this to be a repeated riff if he was actually a chameleon, given a theme of the film in terms of a character trying to 'blend in'. So my feeling is that the filmmakers intended him as a lizard, I can't imagine they just made a mistake and thought, ah well, chameleon, lizard, same thing really?

Anyway, not important, just got me thinking. And in other news:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/6213807/Spider-Man-lookalike-lizard-is-latest-exotic-pet-craze.html
Byron Loker said…
Reading the story on the above link about the Spider-man lizard I see that, yes, they can change colour. I think Rango is indeed a lizard.
Cleric said…
When I first saw the trailer I knew this would be a very entertaining movie. Still need to go watch it though, might plan to do so tomorrow maybe. Good read without spoilers.

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