Rango – Review

by Ken B.

Now he is known as Rango. Never mind the fact that’s not his real name. Never mind the fact he’s really a self-contained playwright using inanimate objects as his cast. Never mind he’s a chameleon as weak as he looks. Never mind he just turned up in the town because he and his tank fell of his owners’ station wagon. Never mind he really didn’t kill seven people with one bullet. He’s the sheriff. And that’s what stays.

Rango, of course, is voiced by Johnny Depp. Depp adds a certain mood to the character of Rango, which works and just makes him more humorous and relatable in the role. He doesn’t really believe that the mayor of this town (voice:NED BEATTY) seriously believes in him, because he doesn’t believe in himself, either. Isla Fisher, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Harry Dean Stanton, Timothy Olyphant, and Ray Winstone round out an outstanding ensemble voice cast, and their experience really does reflect in the voicing of a marvelously written screenplay.

The screenplay, speaking of, is loaded with far more lines and references aimed at the older crowd than most animated-for-kids movies. For example, take the scene where characters ride in to attack the enemy on giant birds to “Ride of the Valkyries”.Or maybe, and more telling, the fact that this whole movie is one great big parody of the westerns from the 1940s and ‘50s. It welcomes the fact there’s a wide range of people watching, and things that fly right over little kids’ heads will be caught and appreciated by someone else. What might be taken as a sense of false criticism is that the characters, besides Rango, of course, for who they are, are relatively nameless. In most movies, that would be seen as something negative, but here, it neither hurts it or helps it.

The animation style is CGI, but it is also beautiful in the way that you might of thought only a hand drawn work might achieve. It’s wrapped in a sense of cinematic warmness, with a charm to the way characters and objects are designed throughout. You don’t know exactly why its animation style is so appealing, it just is.

Rango is extraordinarily well made. It’s not an animated kiddie movie about talking animals. It’s a film, and it just happens to be animated, aimed at kids, and has talking animals. Boiled down, it’s a story of finding one’s identity. What is our comfort zone? What do others see when they think of us? How different is it from ours? These questions, whether explicitly or implicitly, are tackled in Rango. You don’t notice this ever really existing until towards the end, where our hero’s vision quest is met by the stock version of the Man with No Name. Surrounded by clever jokes, good voice talent, and beautiful animation, Rango never really feels like it’s trying to preach that hard, and works on two levels almost as well as Hugo did. The kids will be fascinated by Rango’s adventures, and the older folks will see the jokes the kids don’t get, the values, and the charm that washes over this thing as a movie. It is experienced, and not quickly forgotten.

Rango won the Academy Award for Best Animated Picture, and I have no complaints with that title. Pixar aside, movies aimed at kids rarely reach this level of age range in a non-sarcastic fashion. (Actually, now that I think about that, most of Pixar’s recent outings can’t reach everyone at the same time) Rango is splendid in almost every way, and is really, truly, deeply a very good movie.

P.S.: I also hear that in a world of 3D gimmicky stuff, Rango was released in 2D and only 2D in theaters. Round of applause for Paramount, please!