Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Directed by Gore Verbinski.
2011. Rated PG, 107 minutes.
Johnny Depp
Isla Fisher
Ned Beatty
Abigail Breslin
Alfred Molina
Bill Nighy
Harry Dean Stanton
Timothy Olyphant
Ray Winstone
Stephen Root
James Ward Byrkit
Gil Birmingham

After some slick talking and fortunate accidents, Rango (Depp) finds himself as the sherrif of the water starved t own of Dirt. The town is in such a drout all of their water is kept in the bank’s vault. On Wednesday’s all of the townspeople gather by the giant spicket so the mayor can dole out their weekly allowance. Western style hijinks and shenanigans ensue.

One of the first things we notice in Rango is the vivid colors as our hero is alone in his tank with a few props in the back of a car. Likewise, when he falls out of the car onto the road and into the oppressive sunlight. Most notable is all this is the main characters bright green hue. It serves as a constant reminder of his status as an outsider when most of the colors are stripped away. What we’re left with is a pallet mostly made up of various shades of brown, gray and black. Other colors that manage to get included are muted. It recreates the rustic atmosphere of a place long passed over by time. Through amazing character designs even the citizens of Dirt have the weathered look befitting people who live in a town with such a name. This is no small feat considering these “people” are all animals. This attention to detail perfectly sets the mood and tone.

Of course, this is no straight forward adventure of a stranger riding in to save a desolate town. This is a parody of such movies. Depending on you, this is either a strength or a weakness. For adults that have watched their fair share of westerns this will be a great strength. You will be able to laugh at the parts that specifically poke fun at the genre as well as the more accessible humor, of which there is plenty. For those that haven’t watched many westerns this will likely be a weakness. There may be stretches where it seems nothing much is going on. My children have no use for westerns and my daughters have never watched more than a few minutes of one before giving up. My wife and son may have made it through one or two apiece. Indeed, I laughed more often than any of them.

If there is any other weakness, to me it is Johnny Depp in the lead role. Generally, I’m a Depp apologist. However, he sounds forced in this case. Instead of just using his natural voice, which would’ve worked just fine, he sounds as if he’s trying to imitate what he thinks Rango should sound like. The character himself is reminiscent of Woody Allen, so I also kept wondering why he wasn’t playing the part. It’s not that Depp is bad, he’s just clearly better at live-action than voiceover work.

Fortunately, weaknesses are few in Rango. It’s a wonderful sendup of westerns without alienating the audience at which its aiming. It moves smoothly from comedy to action and uses striking visuals effectively in both veins. There are a few words harsher than one would expect in a PG rated animated flick, so parents be prepared for that. Still, its very well done and lots of fun.

MY SCORE: 7.5/10

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