On a cold, wet Sunday afternoon, I figured it was a good time to take the kids to see the latest animated movie, Rango. Only problem was…this isn’t a “kid friendly” film. On the contrary, this is very much an animated film for adults. And with Johnny Depp as the title character, this amazing movie might go down as the most mis-marketed film in animation history.
As the film begins, we meet Rango, a lizard with an imagination. His life has been spent in a tank with a windup fish and a headless doll. He is being transported in a car that is almost run off the road and in the process he gets tossed out the window. Now he’s is a lizard that is lost in the desert being chased by a giant hawk. Eventually he winds up in the small town of Dirt where, after a run-in with the local hoodlums, he finds himself sheriff. Unfortunately the town is facing one of the worst droughts in its history. It’s so bad that the town is on the verge of collapsing and, for some odd reason, the mayor doesn’t seem to be all that concerned. So Rango makes the city a promise that he will find out what has happened to the town’s water supply. Along the way there are several action packed sequences as Rango and his posse find themselves up against one of the nastiest animated screen villains since Hopper in “A Bug’s Life.”
There are so many things about this film that I enjoyed but the most obvious was the animation itself. I’ve seen many animated films, some are better than others, but this one is special. From the light glints on the scales of the characters to the sunsets in the desert sky, there isn’t a scene in this movie that isn’t gorgeous to look at. As a piece of art, this is the top of the pile. Where “Toy Story” is detailed, this movie is intricate. Every hair, every tumbleweed, every piece of dust actually looks real. And the characters are every bit as entertaining to watch as the scenery. I mean…they’re the ugliest critters you’ve ever seen…but they are so realistic and so dynamic that you can’t help but stare at their beady eyes and be amazed! I absolutely LOVE the animation in this film and if it doesn’t win technical awards at the Oscars next year it will be a shame.
As for the characters, I think Depp was the perfect choice for Rango. He gives the character a certain “Barney Fife” appeal and plays him with just the right amount of naivete. There are plenty of other great voices involved including Ned Beatty as the mayor, Isla Fisher as Ringo’s love interest, Beans, and Bill Nighy is the voice of Rattlesnake Jake, the evil villain that shows up in the second half of the movie to steal the show. Every voice in this film is perfect for their character and they all do a great job.
As for the story, it’s not exactly the best but it makes the grade in most of the right places. In some parts it drags but for the most part the animation keeps you interested enough and the action sequences are fun to watch. I found “Rango” to be fascinating to watch, not necessarily for the storyline but for the characters and the animation. It is definitely a breakthrough in computer animation (again) and I’m hoping the word gets out that this really isn’t a kids movie (lots of cussing, some scary situations) but more of a PG-13 western for adults.
Overall Rating: A-