Until accidentally, the spindly armed, bulging eyed, crocked neck, Hawaiian shirt favouring eccentric inhabitant's glass cage is thrust out of the back window of a moving vehicle onto a Mojave Desert highway.
Thrown literally into the spaghetti-western setting of his dreams, the domesticated lizard is tossed from car windscreen screen to car windscreen screen almost ending up road kill when he meets a sage armadillo (Alfred Molina), who directs him on a path to both enlightenment and Dirt.
Stumbling through the desert and chased by a persistent hawk, he finally drags himself into the town of Dirt. A water-starved dry and forbidding outpost; dirt is inhabited by a menagerie or rodents amphibians, reptiles and sundry desert creatures desperate and with little hope left.
Assuming the Clint Eastwood inspired persona Rango, the born performer eager to make a good impression talks-the-talk and tries to walk-the-walk by convincing the simple townsfolk of his gun-slinging prowess by spinning an amazing story about and his single bullet victory over seven bandits.
An instant sensation with the downtrodden citizens, Rango is ushered off to meet the Mayor. The gnarled hard-shelled turtle (voiced by Ned Betty) encourages Rango to become the towns newest Sheriff (a role that has seen the demise of many) and help to preserve the towns most valued commodity; the miniscule amount of water in its bank.
However, Rango's unwavering self certainty comes under fire when the bank is robbed and left completely dry. Forming a posse of various vermin; including a scaly but spunky Scarlett O'Hara inspired gal named Beans (Isla Fisher) with an interesting defense mechanism and an eye for our hero, Rango sets out on a journey of "True grit".
Can Rango save face and find his inner Eastwood mojo? Will he be able to save the town by getting their water back? Or is there something more sinister than a bad patch of weather to Dirt's aquatic conundrum?
A fitting satirical tribute to the western genre, Rango is a wonderfully crafted first animated feature from the George Lucas-owned effects company, Industrial light and magic. Marrying director Gore Verbinski who fashioned the loveable Jack Sparrow with the man who brought him to life Johnny Depp creates yet another highly entertaining and neurotically off beat character.
Depp is the life and soul of this film, possessing one of the finest and nibble speaking voices in the business. Creating a wonderfully complex character complete with delusions, fantasies, insecurities and strength of spirit a recognisably human little lizard has never been so intriguing.
Masterfully Verbinski; the mind that brought us Mousehunt, enhanced the vibrancy of acting by putting them all together, dressed up on a dummy set whilst performing. In this zoo of weird and wonderful, voices such as Ray Winstone, Bill Nighy, Timothy Olyphant and Ian Abercrombie seamlessly flows with the sun-baked symphony of a richly textured dusty palette in a time-bending, mind-bending, just-go-with-it adult animation.
Although hinged for children on a distinctly bathroom style humour, the slightly risqué jokes to parents and cacophonous mishmash of film references from Man With No Name to Stars Wars, Gulliver's Travels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Chinatown and even Spellbound, means the hard to identify taxidermist inspired characters camouflage its whirlpool of unevenness.
The Verdict: Courage, greed, self-preservation, loyalty, determination and laugher are the morals by which a character learning that being different is not a hindrance to doing the right thing and believing in ones self can employ, and when four Mexican mariachi singing owls are telling your story, how can you not feel special?
Published: The Queanbeyan Age
Date of Publication: 18/03/2011
Give it a rental, recommended.
Like the bit with the 'human spinal column'... WTAF.
Despite that, it's a brilliant film, made better by an unexpected plotline... well until it gets to the third act and gets pretty, well, predictahollywoodable.