Rango Review

(3.5 STARS)

The best comparison I can come up with for Gore Verbinski’s Rango is last year’s Kick-Ass. While the two share little in common thematically, they both succeed on multiple fronts. They are great genre films—Rango, a western; Kick-Ass, a superhero movie—while simultaneously sending up that same genre. Fans of westerns will love the little call backs to Once Upon a Time in the West, High Noon, and the “Man with No Name” trilogy. Kids will love the goofy humor and genuinely exciting action sequences. And adults will love the sly, subtle, slightly inappropriate jokes that will go over their kids’ heads. It’s not quite a slam dunk, but it’s a hard for someone of any age not to enjoy this film.

Johnny Depp voices the titular lizard, who fashions himself a world-class thespian. But after a freak accident separates him from his cushy tank, he’s forced into the harsh desert where water is scarce and his fellow creatures are skeptical of strangers. He comes across an Old West town called Dirt and accidently becomes the town’s sheriff when he takes down a hawk. But it’s a title that comes with some serious duties—protecting the town’s dwindling water supply from an unknown thief, as well as the town’s residents from the fierce Rattlesnake Jake (voice of Bill Nighy).

We’ve seen some animated films recently with first-rate screenplays, and Rango’s is one of the best. The western motifs are welcome surprises, and the characters are all full of life (reminiscent of the wide array of creatures in Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox). I also laughed out loud on several occasions—not bad for a film that’s being marketed toward the under-10 crowd.

This is also one of the few animated films in which the voice acting is a significant plus. I can’t imagine anyone other than Johnny Depp voicing this character. His delivery of every line is perfect, recalling the terrific comedic timing of the original Pirates of the Caribbean film. The rest of the cast isn’t too bad either. Isla Fisher voices Beans, fulfilling the film’s necessary romantic subplot. Alfred Molina voices an important swami-like creature, and Timothy Olyphant has the trickiest role of all—emulating one of film’s most iconic characters ever.

My issues with the film are relatively minor. I thought it went on a little too long—dragging in the scenes leading up to the big final confrontation. I thought the action scenes, though funny and well-choreographed, were a little too silly—specifically the big “Ride of the Valkyries” moment. One of the things I too absolutely no issue with was the animation itself. The colors are beautiful, and all the characters have a lot of lovely detail. Crazy what you can do when you stay in two dimensions…

Original, clever, and very engaging, Rango has something for everyone. It’s the first great film of 2011 and has to be considered a frontrunner for Best Animated Feature at next year’s Oscars.

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  1. Pingback: Rango (2011) Review | Jamie Daily | Jamie Daily

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