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More in Arts & Entertainment
Rango (Paramount Pictures)
The new movie Rango is more than an animated film; it’s a motion picture experience one has to see to believe. This is the first full-length CG-animated film created by Industrial Light & Magic, a visual effects company owned by Star Wars creator George Lucas, which is known for a long history of innovative special effects. In Rango, ILM pulls out all the stops to create a delightful animated adventure that parents will enjoy as much as their kids.
A no-name lizard (voiced by Johnny Depp) has a talent for theatrics with his glass tank as his stage. He often makes up different scenarios with the help of his “actors” including a toy fish, a decapitated Barbie doll, and a toy tree. During a car ride with his family, the lizard plunges out of his tank and into a large expanse of desert. Once there, he finds himself in the town of Dirt, which is experiencing a crisis. The town’s tiny water supply is running out, and one of the townspeople, Beans (Isla Fisher), believes that the mayor of Dirt (Ned Beatty) is hiding some of that water.
After a hilarious confrontation with a hawk that leads to the bird’s demise, the townsfolk embrace the lizard as their new hero. In a plot reminiscent of 'The Three Amigos,' the lizard seizes the opportunity to use his acting talents to adopt a persona as a tough-talking, rootin' tootin' gunslinger named Rango. He is quickly recruited as the town’s sheriff, and asked to figure out the mystery of the town’s missing water. However, the mystery grows deeper as Rango must deal with villainous prospectors and evil outlaws including Bad Bill (Ray Winstone) and Rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy).
Rango is directed by Gore Verbinski, who directed Depp’s famous character Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. Verbinski’s spirited direction helps bring the movie together with dark humor and entertaining action. The movie can be enjoyed more by adults than children, as the humor goes beyond that of other animated films from the likes of Pixar and DreamWorks. Some parents may be uncomfortable with their children seeing the grotesque and scary characters, the smoking and alcohol drinking (cactus juice), and the repeated references to Hell as a place of damnation.
The animation is so lifelike and beautiful that we as the audience feel like we’re part of Rango’s world. While the town of Dirt is a pitch-perfect rendition of an idealized Western ghost town, the desert scenes have their own hypnotic quality that ensures we can’t take our eyes off the screen.
Verbinski was able to put together a top-notch cast of voice talent. Depp’s second foray into voice acting (after Tim Burton's 'The Corpse Bride') is successful, largely due to his oddball, yet highly likable, personality. The animators did a wonderful job capturing Depp’s movements and facial expressions. Highlights from the rest of the cast includes Oscar-nominee Abigail Breslin as little Priscilla, Alfred Molina as Roadkill, and Harry Dean Stanton as blind prospector Balthazar. Timothy Olyphant (from FX’s Justified) channels Clint Eastwood in a brilliant cameo as the Spirit of the West.
While it may not be suitable for little children, Rango manages to be a highly entertaining animated film made for both adults and kids. It also serves as an affectionate spoof of Westerns, full of the stereotypes and hackneyed plot devices that marked the genre during the spaghetti days of Sergio Leone and the Hollywood studios that churned out hundreds of low-budget flicks.
The movie is full of homages to classic westerns, including High Noon, and it serves as a reminder that the genre is gaining recent credibility, thanks to highly regarded films like the recently Oscar-nominated True Grit.
Depp gives his fans another top-notch performance, surpassing his turn as the Mad Hatter from last year’s Oscar-winning hit Alice in Wonderland. He returns this summer as Captain Jack Sparrow in the highly anticipated Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which is directed this time by Rob Marshall.
THE MOVIE’S RATING: PG (for rude humor, language, action, and smoking)
THE CRITIC’S RATING: 3.5 Stars (Out of Four)