March 8, 2011

Movie Review: Rango

Let me apologize right up front. What for? Let's just say that Rango is a fantastic film, but it is also one that is escaping my ability to write about it. For one reason or another the words are just not coming. I would love to say that it is a movie so great that it left me speechless, but that is not exactly accurate. It is a movie that collects homages to tons of films, primarily westerns, and molds them into something new, fun, and wonderful. It is like the animated equivalent of a Quentin Tarantino movie, and I love Tarantino.

I recall seeing the first trailer for this and being immediately attracted to its off-kilter style, slapstick, and the fact I was reminded of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I had no idea if it would turn out to be any good or not, but I was certainly up for giving it a shot (unlike another recent animated offering, Gnomeo and Juliet, which held no interest for me). I am glad I did as the movie was a complete surprise in how it delivered its wares.

With Rango you have a movie that is animated but plays it, more or less, like a live action film. The humor and characters all fit the situations, nothing seems awkward or forced (unless it is meant to be awkward or forced), all with some fantastic character designs that look right at home.

What's the story? It is simple enough. Rango is a pet lizard whose terrarium is accidentally bounced out of his owners car along a barren stretch of highway in the desert. The newly freed lizard is directed to a nearby town by a neighborly armadillo. So, off he goes towards the town.

Once at the town he finds corruption and bad guys all around. The problem is they are running out of water. Rango, fancying himself something of a homegrown thespian takes on a tough guy persona and winds up the sheriff. A rather unwanted position by anyone there. It is up to him and a small group of compadres to find out what is happening to the water and bring prosperity back to the small town. Easier said than done. The best part? There is a chorus in the form of an owl mariachi band.

Seriously though, Rango is a triumph of design, cast, ad writing. It is a kids movie with a decidedly adult bent. It is told in a way that should appeal across demographics and leave everyone smiling. It is a movie that invites multiple viewings to make sure you find all of the references, see all of the fine detail, and just enjoy these characters.

Gore Verbinski and John Logan have made a movie that works as a family animated movie but also as a western/comedy that can stand up with the best the genre has to offer. They put in some great references that I don't want to spoil here, but caught me off guard and added to my overall enjoyment.

To the creative team add a voice cast that includes Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Ned Beatty, Bill Nighy, Alfred Molina, Stephen Root, Timothy Olyphant, Abigail Breslin, and Harry Dean Stanton, all of whom deliver, and you have a great formula for success.

I am no sure I will get to see it on the big screen again, but let me highly suggest that you do so at least once. It really is a fun movie with some of the best animated character designs I have seen in awhile. It is a movie that I love in a fashion similar to Kung Fu Panda.

Highly Recommended.

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