An animated movie from director Gore Verbinski that reteams him with actor Johnny Depp, Rango is quite the most beautiful depiction of bizarre and sometimes downright ugly critters I have seen in some time and it’s also a wonderful film.
Depp plays the lead character, a chameleon who spends the time in his tank acting out various roles and generally being a bit mad. When a cruel twist of fate sees him left alone in the middle of a desert and having to fend for himself he barely makes it to the nearest town, named Dirt. Realising that he can create the role of a lifetime for himself, our little actor gives himself the name of Rango and paints himself in quite a heroic light. Of course, making such boasts lands him in trouble when the town turns to him for help. They want to find out what has been happening to their water. And they want someone who can defend them from the big, mean Rattlesnake Jake.
Almost everyone who has reviewed this movie has mentioned how it falls, strangely, between a movie for kids and a movie for adults. I don’t see why it can’t satisfy everyone. Sure, there are plenty of gags and references that the kids won’t get but isn’t that always the case with animated movies nowadays? The characters depicted may be a dark, strange lot but they’re also have some wonderful quirks and the whole adventure is pitched just perfectly between thrilling action and menacing scares to test the little ones as they follow our plucky, verbose, fake hero on his quest to become a . . . . . . plucky, verbose, real hero.
The vocal cast is superb. Depp is on top form, talking almost at a constant rapid speed to either embellish a tall tale or to cover up his own fears. Isla Fisher is great as the feisty Beans. And we have Harry Dean Stanton, Ned Beatty, Ray Winstone, Alfred Molina, Stephen Root, Timothy Olyphant and many more. There’s also a virtually unrecognisable turn from the great Bill Nighy – yes, I know that the animated form easily makes most people unrecognisable but Nighy has such a distinct and well-known voice that I was surprised by how effective his Western portrayal of Rattlesnake Jake was.
But, despite the many great moments in John Logan’s script and the multitude of movie references (Django obviously, Apocalypse Now, Chinatown, almost every Western ever made, etc, etc), this movie scores the highest marks in the visual department. It’s the first animated feature produced by Industrial Light & Magic and they clearly wanted to make something eye-poppingly gorgeous because that’s what the final product is. It sounds pretty cliché nowadays to say it but almost every scene of this film could be framed and hung up as a work of art, if you like your art to feature a bizarre cornucopia of desert-dwelling animals.
Things could have benefited from some sharper editing and an extra sprinkling of gags but this still provides enormous fun for all the family and deserves as wide an audience as possible for the unlikely hero it presents us with.
DIRECTOR: GORE VERBINSKI
STARS: JOHNNY DEPP, ISLA FISHER, NED BEATTY, RAY WINSTONE, BILL NIGHY, ALFRED MOLINA, STEPHEN ROOT
RUNTIME: 107 MINS APPROX