In a million years, I never once thought I could admire such a gangly, discolored looking fellow, but I really do like Johnny Depp…I mean Rango. But really, they are one in the same, no?
Rango, directed by Gore Verbinski, is the story of a domesticated chameleon, that is set free through the strangest of means, and is forced to find a way to survive in the desert. Now, in a desert, the chameleon would typically seek out a water source and some shade, but Rango, somehow, manages to find an entire civilization. An old west town in need of water and justice, both of which are easier said than done. Once events are set in motion the action starts flowing and the jokes get quipier and quipier. Rango is asked to take on the role of town sheriff, a position nobody wants because of Rattlesnake Jake and his gang of miscreants. Looking to reinvent himself, Rango takes the job, looking at it as an opportunity to chase his real dream of being an actor.
The old west backdrop makes for a great take on a modern gunslinger film, which is something audiences of all ages are likely to find appealing. The fights and slapstick action raise the bar for what kids find funny, while the puns and repartee are perfect fodder for the adults. Through and through a fun film for all involved, though it does entire some dark territory, similar to that of Toy Story 3 and some of the more precarious moments.
The animation is gorgeous, with super crisp scenery and oddly realized animals. There are no attempts at realism here, as seen in many of today’s animated ventures, which adds to the humor and accentuates the world Rango exists in.
Depp expresses a range of voices and inflection as the titular reptile, which makes for great delivery. Other actors worth noting are Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, and Ned Beatty. They were so distinct and difficult to discern (which was seldom the case with Depp), that you could really get lost in their voice performances. The rest of the cast did an admirable job, but the above three were the true standouts.
Rango, the movie and the character, are worth spending time with. The fun is derived from smart, organic places, as opposed to so much of what passes for humor today. This combined with other successes, like Tangled, How To Train Your Dragon, and even Gnomeo and Juliet (though it was neither a critical or box office success), are helping to usher in a new golden age of animation excellence.