I Was Thirsty After This One

Movie Review: Rango (2011)
Summary: Rango is an ordinary chameleon that accidentally winds up in the town of Dirt, a lawless outpost in the Wild West in desperate need of water and a new sheriff.
Spoilers: none

Rango will be liked by approximately 2/3rds of its viewing audience, more so by the critics who continue to praise it for its artistic uniqueness and verbosely humorous script.

Racking up the bulk of its points, the film is what it strives to be—an off-the-edge-of-the-envelope attention-getter of the Adult Swim crowd that doesn’t even attempt to rely on 3D to be impressive, but still wants to stand out as its own talent show.

Johnny Depp is the voice of “Rango,” a chameleon with a bad case of cosmic dissonance who meets a mysterious armadillo who sets him on a quest that leads to the city of Dirt where, through a bizarre series of unlikely events, he becomes sheriff.

As a bastion of law and order in the eyes of the citizens (consisting of raccoons, bugs, vermin, and amphibians personalized old west-style), Rango’s feigned confidence is to compensate for not knowing his place in the world. His strong determined front is matched only by one discernable soft-spot—his big crush, “Beans” (Isla Fisher), a mouthy spit-fire of a chameleon who is struggling to keep from selling her father’s land in this, an animal’s version of a bad recession.

Rango’s new desert town is in crisis and in need of water. When what remains of their quickly diminishing water supply is stolen, the town is counting on Rango to get it back. The search for the missing water leads our chameleon back home where he begins to suspect the city’s turtle mayor (voiced by Ned Beatty) of foul play.

Rango is definitely not for the kids, which is somewhat of a disappointment since they would appreciate much of the humor. Would that there were musicals or some semblance to a more innocent approach in the narrative, but we get none.

The majority of would-be adult viewers will find no value in the animation, but might not be put off by it, either. The life-parched humor will entertain many, but not everyone, as it goes as far as touching on prostate exams and arrows shot through heads. Some of us will just suffer through it as it boomerangs back to closer-to-home slapstick, involving rats and roadrunners.

Though not as funny as it tries to be, nor as straightforward in its screenplay as the animated wonders we’ve fallen in love with in recent years (i.e. Despicable Me, Megamind), its presentation is extremely high energy.

The story is far more disconnected from reality while the personalities of the animals are either nerdically endowed with unnaturally developed verbal skills (which make the viewer want to tune them out), or densely lacking in personality when it is needed.

While bringing to life a smile-worthy piece of entertainment that will probably not end on a raw note or make you feel like you’ve wasted your time, its divergent parody of westerns in general and Clint Eastwood in specific is part of what sets Rango apart from every other animated film ever made. You might even like it. In so doing, it succeeds when it otherwise would not have.


Grade: C+ (2 ½ stars)
Rated: PG (for rude humor, language, action, and smoking)
Director: Gore Verbinski
Starring: “Rango” / “Lars” (Johnny Depp, voice), “Beans” (Isla Fisher, voice), “Priscilla” (Abigail Breslin, voice), “Mayor” (Ned Beatty, voice), “Roadkill” (Alfred Molina, voice), “Rattlesnake Jake” (Bill Nighy, voice), “Doc” / “Merrimack” / “Mr. Snuggles” (Stephen Root, voice), “Spirit of the West” (Timothy Olyphant, voice)  
Genre:  Animation / Action / Adventure