The film is primarily a wacky, sometimes very surreal tribute to westerns (namely hose of the spaghetti variety) but it also becomes a legitimate entry into the genre. It's an imaginative, visually stunning piece of work that is funny, inspired, and very, very entertaining. There's all sorts of pop culture references from various westerns to stuff like Chinatown, the works of Hunter S. Thompson, and even stuff like Raising Arizona, Apocalypse Now, and Star Wars. Some of this is obvious and expected, some of it a nice surprise. Even Hans Zimmer's sizzling score gets in on the reference game at times. Unlike a lot of contemporary animated films though, I didn't feel that the references were really forced or just thrown in for the sake of it.
The film is marketed towards kids, but it's more for adults since a lot of little kids might some of the visuals a little too creepy or intense, and the crude humor and pop culture references would just go over their heads and be unappreciated. Older kids would like this, say, maybe 8 and up, though. I actually appreciated that this film didn't really pander too much towards kids, or even really try to. It's not the most inspired story, but it's execution sure is.
The film actually takes some risks, mostly in the visuals department. The animation is wonderful and looks great, but it's an ugly, dry, dirty, and grungy film. The attention to detail is fabulous, and the creatures have a high sense of realism to them, even though none of them (mostly various types of reptiles, amphibians, birds, and rodents) are even really cute and fluffy.
The cast are great. Johnny Depp is as fun, eccentric, and manic as always as Rango, while Isla Fisher shines as the tough, no-nonsense Beans. Veterans Ned Beatty, Harry Dean Stanton, and Bill Nighy all put in some terrific work as well. Really though, there's not a bad perofrmance to be found, and just going through the cast list, it's amazing to note how many notable names are here even though many are just in little bit parts instead of all fighting for the spotlight.
Pixar may have stronger films as far as the narrative is concerned, but this one rivals them is the visual department, and has a pretty strong and sharp script to boot. Granted, the story is nothing totally new (as I previously mentioned), but it's thoughtful and has depth instead of just going for total cookie cutter paint by numbers formula. I mean c'mon, it was written by the guy who wrote Gladiator, The Last Samurai and The Aviator, so that right there shows this film is something special.
As I sat watching this, i knew I was enjoying it, and that it was a really good, and strong piece of work, but as the end credits rolled, and as I started thinking about it, and this review, I dare say I think I found myself totally in love with it. This is a wonderful treat, and it's even better because it's not something that was or is in 3D, so that's a nice breath of fresh air. The third Pirates film was a mess, but this definitely helps Verbinski redeem himself more than just a little bit.
Hats way off, and definitely check this out. It's got my pick for one of 2011's best.
A pet lizard (Johnny Depp) falls out of a car in the desert, and earns himself a heroic reputation in the makeshift animal town of 'Dirt' as gunslinger "Rango". Dirt's water-supply is controlled by a turtle mayor (Ned Beatty) and his gang, but Rango rallies the decent folks when it seems the community will be destroyed.
Partly the problem I had with "Rango" was it's stunningly good opening. For the first 10mins or so it looked like it was going to be something very special indeed but as it progressed it fell somewhat flat and ended up as dry and barren as the landscape in which it was set. The voice cast were impressive, particularly Depp. He has a good range and if you didn't know beforehand, you probably wouldn't know it was him. The animation was also very well done but the desert creature characters were so realistic that they were also a bit freaky, leaving them less endearing than they should be, which has you wondering why Verbinski chose the style he did. Choosing the great cinematographer Roger Deakins as visual consultant was a good move though, as the landscapes and western style were brilliantly achieved.
A valiant effort to produce something different but the characters were just a bit too far gone and the story seriously ran out of ideas early on.
Nate's Grade: A
Review Originally Written 3/6/2011