Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Cast: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty
Running Time: 1 hr 47 mins
Release Date: March 4, 2011
PLOT: A chameleon (Depp) who wants to be a hero finds himself in a Western town desperate for water, and he’s forced to play the role to protect them.
WHO’S IT FOR? If you like animated flicks or Westerns, that’s definitely enough of a reason to buy a ticket. There’s a darker tone, that may not appeal to the little ones.
EXPECTATIONS: Depp movies haven’t impressed me lately. I have to admit, I didn’t bother with The Tourist and no one has given me reason to. Plus, the only reason to totally trust an animated movie is if it’s made by Pixar. Well, unless it has Cars in the title, then you can be suspect.
Johnny Depp as Rango: This is a tour de Depp. That’s a phrase, right? The chameleon starts as a nervous nerd, playing house wiht his toys. I immediately felt attached to him. That’s all it took. What’s odd is, besides the comedy, there is something deeper here. When Depp utters, “Who am I?” It’s so unbelievably heartfelt. Sure, when Rango gets the chance to play the hero he over indulges himself, but luckily it doesn’t come off as cocky. Depp is a great actor and Rango wants to play that part and more. It’s the perfect combination. Rango even says “moist,” one of my most hated words in the dictionary, and he makes it work. That’s talent.
Isla Fisher as Beans: When Bean first finds Rango, she doesn’t want to enter town with him. It’s the perfect way to capture that feeling of being an outsider and just wanting friends. Plus, a lizard with a defect is amusing. There is a soft romance between Beans and Rango. Sure, he kind of “attacks” when she is frozen (her defect). But, because of how gentle a spirit he is, we happily allow it. Fisher’s Australian accent is no where to be found, the only complaint is that she seems to suddenly fall for him a little quickly.
Abigail Breslin as Priscilla: Breslin is great as the little girl in awe. I just wanted on more moment like when she was holding the six-shooters. Also, you might not want to call her ugly. I learned my lesson when I sat down to interview Breslin.
Rest of Cast: Ned Beatty as the Mayor has definitely found his second life as a voiceover artist. First Lotso from Toy Story 3 and now this. The rest of the cast is very impressive with Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Stephen Root, Harry Dean Stanton and Ray Winstone all lending a voice. The best for me was Timothy Olyphant as the Spirit of the West. I was definitely convinced is was someone else … A famous Western actor … He’s also known as being Dirty … and Harry … and having a Fistfull of Dollars … “Get off my lawn!” … I’m talking about Clint Eastwood people.
TALKING: There are so many meaty lines and even philosophical moments here. The quick lines of comedy come at a rate where I actually feel like I missed a couple because the audience was laughing so much. Depp drops words like “savages” that through adults back to his Hunter S. Thompson days. My two favorite lines … “No man can walk out on his own story,” and “I’m going to strip away this mystery and expose its private parts.”
SIGHTS: Gorgeous. Hypnotic. The eyes of half these creatures are enough to lose yourself in. The little things are so well done, like the bend in Rango’s neck. Plus, it’s epic. There are some action sequences that are so big and bad(ass) that it will be on par with any blockbuster action movie this year. When I talked with Gore Verbinski, I asked about this film not being in 3D. He said, “Did you think it needed to be?” I said, no. So then he said, “So why would I want to charge people more?” I like this man.
SOUNDS: I already have the soundtrack which is a combination of Los Lobos and Hanz Zimmer. Yeah, not bad. The mariachi band worked for me every time setting the mood and Zimmer knows what he’s doing, just like he always does.
BEST SCENE: It’s really hard to pick, but I am going to go with the first time Rango walks into the bar. The music comes to a halt, and the cast of characters in this town can fully be appreciated. Plus, trying to choke down catcus juice leads to one of the funnier moments in a film that has many.
ENDING: Almost with a shrug and a smile our tale of Rango comes to an end, which is a little odd, since death has been on the line the entire film.
QUESTIONS: I did get many of my questions answered while I interviewed the cast. The one thing that I didn’t ask about that does stand out in this film is the size ratio of certain things. There are human sized things, like a Pepto Bismol outhouse. Then, there are also really small guns and most peculiar … an really small apple. Where did this come from? This supports the concept that this is all a drug trip from the cameo of Raoul Duke.
REWATCHABILITY: I’ve already seen it twice before the release date. I think I could be talked into a third time.
I’d like to say Rango has stumbled onto something new, but with Gore Verbinski, Johnny Depp and Industry Light & Magic there’s no stumbling. This is a group of professionals tapping into core cinematic elements and hitting them out of the park. The underdog, the Old West, a hero, a villain and finding a moment to rise up and become “the guy who goes back.” Simply from a visual standpoint, it’s a film you can’t look away from. I know it’s only March, so I can’t declare this is the best animated film of 2011. But I can say this, I can’t imagine you or I will see a better animated film this year.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10