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Movie Review: ‘Rango’

March 4, 2011

Capsule Review

Rango charmed my pants off.

The story can be boiled down to one of existential crisis and exploration of personal identity. A terrarium dwelling chameleon struggles to create a community in his limited environment - with only a plastic goldfish, a Barbie’s headless torso, a dish of water and his theatrically-inclined imagination for company. When accidental circumstances place the protagonist in the Mojave desert – specifically, a town called Dirt – his quest for survival affords him a chance for re-invention, an opportunity he whole-heartedly embraces.

Calling himself ‘Rango’ and adopting the persona of a heroic outlaw, he quickly learns that Dirt is in trouble. The residents of Dirt are running out of water and they turn to Rango for help. Shot with luck – though ill-equipped for the challenges that face him – Rango has little choice but to back his tall tales of bravado with actual action. Facing bandits, gun-slingers, a harsh new environment and natural predators – Rango promises to uphold the office of town sheriff – a role that comes with superficial perks and a high rate of mortality.

Rango deftly pays loving homage to iconic Western and Adventure films that have come before it and the imagery and action sequences are breath-taking.  This is the first feature length animation film by Industrial Light and Magic and the CG rendering is absolutely gorgeous. The visuals in this film are a marvel – richly textured and beautifully composed – it’s no wonder that Roger Deakins (cinematographer, True Grit) is credited as being a consultant for cinematography.

Not just an exceptionally pretty face, Rango is also a lot of fun. I’m not always a fan of nods and winks in film, but when Rango tips it’s Ten Gallon Hat, the tributes feel organic and in the service of good story-telling.

Johnny Depp provides the voice talent for Rango and is joined by Isla Fisher, Alfred Molina, Ned Beatty, Abigail Breslin, Ray Winstone and Harry Dean Stanton, Bill Nighy and Timothy Olyphant in this charming comedy directed by Gore Verbinski.


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