I finally sat down with a copy of Rango in hand the other day expecting to be bored out of my mind. I try hard not to go into a film thinking like this, but I haven’t really felt energized by an animated flick in quite some time. Rango looked to be another Dreamworks attempt at making me chuckle in the moment but quickly forgotten about afterwards. So needless to say that I was a bit surprised to find it on The Mike’s Baker’s Dozen List for 2011. Figuring that The Mike would never lead me astray–except that one time he made me watch Wes Craven Presents Carnival of Souls —oh and that other time he made me watch JCVD —um, well, the point is that I watched Rango.
Rango is the family tale of a lizard who lives his life behind a the walls of glass fish bowl. He entertains himself by acting out his favorite fantasies with his make believe friends but thanks to a tragic roadside accident he is left in the middle of the desert. The hot sun leads him to a small old west town of lizards and critters where water is scarce and treated like gold. Rango, trying to show off to his new found audience finds himself earning the spot as town sheriff and is dropped right in the middle of conspiracy to dry up the town and make it a ghost town.
What I like about Rango is that it is a kids western. Despite the animation and the cast of critters in various roles, Rango plays out like a classic Eastwood or John Wayne film. It’s hard to make a western that is enjoyed by adults and kids but director Gore Verbinski of Pirates of the Caribbean fame leads this flick down the right track. Casting Johnny Depp as Rango and giving it the look of an emulated Tim Burton feel should have actual deterred this film but somehow enhances it instead. You fall in love with Depp voicing Rango and he seems to be the perfect fit for the role. Isla Fisher, Ned Beatty, Abigail Breslin, Bill Nighy, Alfred Molina, Stephen Root and more round out the voice cast for this fun little flick.
Perhaps my favorite part of Rango was the villainous rattlesnake Jake, a hired gunslinger who was known to be the baddest in the land. His gattling gun tail and ominous approach as he slithers into town made for wonderful screen time. He was the perfect villain for kids and just creepy enough to make the adults attention as well. In fact, parts of Rango are just all out a little intense for some youngins. Yet despite the content, Verbinski keeps things in check so it doesn’t go over board and give the little ones night mares.
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know a ton about rendering graphics and computer based animation but I really though the makers of Rango had it together on this film. Things looked great, set pieces were constructed wonderfully. They were lit just right and were pleasing to the eye while setting the tone for the entire film. Characters looked like they matched the voices and were convincing set pieces for their roles in the movie. All in all, Rango is a film that makes a perfect use of muted colors and tones mixed with a bit of bright pastels at just the right moment. The animation sets the tone for the entire film, and in the case of Rango I feel that they hit the nail right on the head. Dreamworks may actually be giving Pixar a run for their money and actually deserve top honors at the Oscars this year for this film.
Rango really doesn’t bring anything new to the table in the story department, but you really don’t care. It’s the classic western tale about troubled town with an evil rich man trying to buy up all the land and forcing people out of town. Along comes a drifter and cleans things up with a high noon show down. The reason this one works so well is the way that they took this tale and twisted it to adapt to their needs and goals. Rango reintroduces the classic western to a whole new audience- kids and their fathers. It’s fun for the whole family, it’s vibrant and worth a watch. If you get a chance, check it out.