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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 20.69%
Just Average: 0%
Pretty Crappy: 20.69%
Sucks: 6.9%

3 reviews, 11 user ratings

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by Peter Sobczynski

"The Good, The Bad And The Really Weird"
5 stars

When the new animated feature “Rango” eventually arrives on DVD and Blu-ray, I can only hope and pray that the bonus features include a video of the meeting in which the filmmakers pitched the project to the moneymen. After all, if those guys can talk their producers into forking over money for an animated film that includes a storyline that counts “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and “Chinatown” among its key inspirations, a central character that, while adorable in its own unique manner, is not the kind of thing one might expect to see transformed into plush toys and a performance by Johnny Depp as the aforementioned hero that is so decidedly bizarre that it makes his turns in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films seem almost staid by comparison, they could probably sell anything to anyone. Then again, maybe they just lucked out and pitched the project to people who recognized that while it is as prosperous as ever, especially now that they can post-convert them into 3D and jack up the ticket prices, the feature animation genre has, with the singular exception of the output from Pixar, has grown a bit stale and repetitive over the last few years and something needed to be done to juice things up a bit. Whatever the reason, we viewers are the ones who are benefiting for once because “Rango” is a sheer and unadulterated delight from start to finish--a defiantly weird and unexpectedly charming effort that could easily feel at home at both matinees and on the midnight movie circuit.

Depp gives voice to our hero, a chameleon who has the natural ability to change in order to fit in with his surroundings but has so little personal identity that the family that owns him doesn’t even seem to have given him a name of his own. While traveling through the desert, the terrarium that he resides in falls out of the car and he is left to fend for himself against the blazing sun and the great unknown with nothing more at his disposal than his peculiar penchant for the theatrical arts. Eventually he is found by another lizard, Beans (Isla Fisher) and she brings him back to the town of Dirt, a drought-ridden town that is nowhere near as appealing as its name makes it seem. With nothing to lose, he claims to be a fearsome gunslinger by the name of Rango and thanks to a combination of his acting skills, the easily duped nature of the locals and not an inconsiderable amount of dumb luck, Rango is soon named sheriff and is charged with trying to solve the town’s increasingly dire water problem. When he gets no help from the town’s mayor (Ned Beatty in a role that combines aspects of Lotso the Bear and Noah Cross), he sets off with some of the townspeople to find a solution to the water problem and winds up going against gangs of possums and vultures, not to mention the extremely fearsome Rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy) in order to both save the day and finally discover his purpose in life.

As I was watching “Rango” unfold, I began to realize to my delight that I was witnessing something that has become increasingly rare in movies today and especially in animated ones--a film that had the guts to stand on its own as something original and unique. (In my case, this may have been influenced by the fact that I was watching it immediately after sitting through one of the most profoundly unoriginal and dramatically wheezy films in recent memory.) At first glance, the story would seem to be just another film about a mild-mannered dope who is mistaken for a hero and is forced to live up to that billing but the screenplay by John Logan has a lot more on its mind than that. In amongst the silliness, both visual and verbal (including a number of jokes that will sail over the heads of younger viewers but which will doubtlessly crack up older viewers), is a surprisingly thoughtful depiction of someone trying to find their place in the world that will resonate with viewers of all ages without ever bogging down into a barrage of unwanted earnestness leading to a big emotional moment or two. Like many animated films of late, this one contains more than a few pop cultural references but unlike most of those, the ones on display here actually fit in with the story instead of simply serving as distractions and there are a couple (which I wouldn’t dream of spoiling) that inspire the film’s biggest laughs.

Visually, “Rango” is a marvel as well in the way that it avoids the lush and lavish style of most animated film in order to employ a cheerfully scraggly look for everything from its lead characters to the arid backdrop of the town of Dirt that is undeniably striking. (Part of this may be do to the presence of famed cinematographer Roger Deakins as a visual consultant, a position that he also took on the equally lovely “WALL*E” and “How to Train Your Dragon.”) And unlike most animated film of late, the voice cast has been assembled by people looking for performers who perfectly embody their roles instead of with famous faces whose names can be easily exploited. As Rango, Johnny Depp is alternately hilarious, bizarre and touching in a turn that is easily his best and most consistent performance in a while and no matter how strange he may get at times, he never lets the weirdness overtake things as he has in some of his other recent roles. While the film may seem to be a one-man show for Depp, it is actually filled with equally impressive performances from the likes of Fisher, Beatty (who has suddenly become the go-to guy for animated film villainy), Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Ray Winstone and the inimitable Harry Dean Stanton, all of whom get their moments to shine as well.

“Rango” is a little miracle of a movie and while I am happy that it is brave enough to flaunt its oddness in its commercials and trailers, I fear that by doing so, it may wind up putting off some potential viewers who prefer their entertainments to be blander and non-threatening. Like most American animated films, it comes billed as a family film but unlike most of those, it really is suitable for all family members. The little ones will love the silly slapstick and the action (although some of things on display, such as the sight of the fearsome Rattlesnake Jake and an action scene inspired by one of the key moments in “Apocalypse Now,” may be too much for the youngest ones). Older kids will love the Depp performance and its general sense of irreverence. Parents will love that it contains a story smart and compelling enough to keep them interested without boring or confusing the wee ones and they will especially like the fact that it is an animated film that doesn’t require them to pay extra at the box office for the privilege of wearing silly glasses in order to watch it. There are a ton of animated films on the way this and while it is probably too soon make any predictions, I have a sneaky suspicion that when all is said and done, “Rango” is going to turn out to be the one true keeper of the bunch.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=20581&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/04/11 12:31:24
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User Comments

2/20/12 Dr.Lao Not a classic, but it is a charming and enjoyable movie 4 stars
1/21/12 Rahul One of the best animated moviie ever made 5 stars
10/18/11 Magic Eccentric and weird Western. Most importantly, personal and lovingly made. 4 stars
9/15/11 KingNeutron Not what I was expecting AT ALL, even as a Depp fan - too weird n slow; I gave up 1/2way 1 stars
9/12/11 DinaK Offbeat & highly entertaining, top notch vocal performances from all 4 stars
5/15/11 stephen nettles Smart and fun 4 stars
4/25/11 Quigley One of the most imaginative and visually arresting animated films I've ever seen. 5 stars
3/27/11 ellut The most smartest and most attractive animated film in years. 5 stars
3/27/11 Alfonso Hill With gorgeous animation and an inconsiderate review. 4 stars
3/23/11 Billy a chameloen? 1 stars
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  04-Mar-2011 (PG)
  DVD: 15-Jul-2011

  04-Mar-2011 (PG)

  10-Mar-2011 (PG)
  DVD: 15-Jul-2011

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