Okay, professional movie critics (Ebert exempted — he loved it), what IS your problem? This extremely kooky and delightful film got kind of trashed by most of the reviewers I read regularly, and the primary reason for it seemed to be that the cartoon critters weren’t cute enough.
What the. . .? What do you have against warts, whiskers, and waddles? Lizard bigots. Sheesh.
This entertaining, clever Western is about a chameleon who is on a road trip through the desert with his human family when the car swerves after hitting an armadillo (who was pretty ugly, I’ll grant you, but hey, looks aren’t everything!), sending our new amigo flying out the back.
Totally lost and completely out of his element, he starts walking and eventually stumbles across a little town named Dirt full of a variety of other desert animals. He moseys into the local saloon in search of a glass of water, and is immediately approached by a gang of locals who ain’t too keen on strangers. This gives the chameleon an idea — he loves to act, so he decides to pretend to be a gunslinger named Rango, regaling the saloon’s sots with a Wild West tale about the time he took out seven bad guys with a single bullet.
As Rango settles into town, eventually given the rather dubious honor of being named sheriff (none of the other sheriffs have lived too long, he’s told AFTER accepting the gig), he begins to pick up on the fact Dirt is in trouble. It’s the middle of a terrible drought and the town is nearly out of water. But when he and his new gal pal, a lizard lady named Beans, start to notice strange things going on (what looks like a large dumping of water outside of town, the fact the mayor doesn’t seem terribly worried, the robbery of the last of the town’s water), they begin to suspect a conspiracy.
Can Rango and Beans figure out who’s keeping the town dry (and why) before the bad guy comes after them?
Well, of course they can, duh — this is a kid’s movie, after all; it’ll have a happy ending (though I want to note here that this movie is really more suitable for older kids than little ones — there are a lot of truly scary scenes and I’m also not sure little kids will be able to follow the story).
Any fan of Westerns will get a kick out of this smart, satirical flick, which affectionately incorporates almost every classic Western element, from rolling tumbleweeds, angry mobs, bank robbers, posses, and High Noon duels, to bar brawls, a rancher who won’t give up her land, a bad guy who wants to keep the town squished flat under his thumb, and a romance between a drifter and the woman who seems destined to help him put down roots.
There were also some pretty clever additional touches for adults, including a cameo by Dr. Gonzo and Raoul Duke (on their way to or from Vegas, no doubt), a batty take on the helicopter scene from Apocalypse Now, and a sweet hat-tip to The Man With No Name (voiced perfectly by Timothy Olyphant, who really does a mighty fine Clint Eastwood).
The animation is absolutely gorgeous too — there were several scenic shots that were true works of art, in my opinion, and though the critters might, in fact, be a bit on the homely side, they’re intricately drawn, with tons of character in their faces, and even the ugliest of the ugly good guys had an irresistible charm that will win you over by the end.
“No man can walk out of his own story” is a great moral to this classic tale, and I think Rango is a movie both kids and grown-ups will really enjoy (though, again, it’s rated PG, not G, for a reason).
Also glorious: it was made in 2D and it’s being shown in 2D and there is NO OPTION to see it in 3D. Utterly refreshing.
And highly recommended!
[Prequeue at Netflix | View trailer]
Genre: Animation, Western, Kids
Cast: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Harry Dean Stanton, Timothy Olyphant, Ray Winstone