Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Movie Review: Rango

Rango is the story of a cosmopolitan chameleon (Jonny Depp) leading a life of bored contentment with his imaginary friends and independent theatre productions. During a cross country trip he is ejected from his owners’ car and sees this as an opportunity to redefine himself. After telling a few tall tales and accidentally killing a hawk, he takes the name “Rango” off a bottle of cactus juice and is made the sheriff of the town of Dirt, which is in the crippling grip of a water shortage.

Rango is a parody/homage to classic westerns like Magnificent Seven and The Man With No Name. It’s a bit slow in the first act, but overall the great performances and spectacular visuals make it an enjoyable and surprisingly edgy action/comedy/fantasy/western. It really does run the gamut. Rango is a lot more enjoyable when it goes for the visual and situation humor; there are a bunch of side jokes that are very hit or miss, and it’s the misses that stop Rango from being as good as it could have been.

For am anthropomorphic animal cartoon, it’s surprisingly edgy. This is a wild west town, and the critter denizens have guns, cuss, kill and get killed. If you’re not comfortable with an exchange like “Go to Hell!” “Where do you think I came from?” you may not want to take your kids to this one.

From a technical standpoint, the lighting and textures are, without question, the best I’ve seen on screen, including Avatar. Yeah, I went there. Creatures are dusty, scarred, inbred (!) and tobacco stained. They’re gross and gritty, and this is the first animated wide-release film that really goes in that direction.

It’s hobbled by moments of weak writing and it will have trouble finding an audience, but I recommend seeing Rango. And if the notion of a rattlesnake with a chain-gun tail sounds wicked sweet, you need to see this movie.

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