I just want to start this review by pointing something out. Just because a movie is animated does not make it a kid’s movie. Look at Rango, for example. It was marketed as a movie that was great for the family. Hell, it was released by Nickelodeon Studios. I will admit that kids might get some enjoyment out of it, but Rango is a strange animated western that is spot on entertainment for teenagers and adults.
Rango (Johnny Depp) is a lonely chameleon who, after a strange highway mishap, is flung from his owner’s vehicle and let to fend for himself in the Mojave Desert. After happening across the small town of Dirt, Rango inadvertently becomes the sheriff of this hopeless town. After the town’s water supply is stolen, Rango and a posse set out on a mission to find it , but he soon discovers that there is a bigger scheme going on in Dirt, and it involves one of the heinous gunslinger, Rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy).
If someone were to ask me what Rango was like in the simplest and quickest way possible, I’d reply, “It’s Pixar on LSD.” This is not your average, run of the mill family animated feature. This is a strange take on traditional westerns that is both interesting in its existential themes and humor, but also a plain old good time. It’s in jokes are hysterical and its snappy dialogue is so quick that you won’t pick up on every joke the first time through.
There are a lot of points in this movie where I kept thinking, “Kids aren’t gonna find this funny…at all.” There’s a lot of talking and walking around in between the action set pieces that are actually really fun and genuinely exciting. There isn’t a whole lot of silly slap stick humor, but there are great references that are great shout outs to the older generations of readers and movie goers.
If this is the type of animated material that Industrial Light and Magic is going to be putting out, then I’m confident in saying that Pixar might be in a bit of trouble. Rango has some of the best computer animation that I have ever seen. There’s an excellent scene in the beginning where the sun is glistening through water, and it looks stunning. The shadow effects add a whole new layer of intricate light design that is either missing or lacking in Pixar films. This sets the bar higher than you may think.
Rango has kind of a weird style that films like this generally don’t have (are you seeing a theme in this review?). The desert creatures who we have to follow throughout the entire movie are neither cute nor cuddly. In fact, they can be pretty grotesque. The same can be said about the town of Dirt and even some of the strange looking humans we briefly see. Everything appears to be warped in a very twisted and ugly way that is just so cool.
Besides the fantastic humor and the oxymoronic beautiful/disgusting look of the movie, the plot suffers from a bad case of the scatters. What I mean is that it is all over the place. The movie starts at a weird spot and doesn’t seem to have a true conflict until we get to the third act. You can break the movie up into three short segments. The first, second, and climactic third conflict. There was just a little bit too much going on and I didn’t get the feeling Verbinski decided on a definite plot, just a lot of little ones.
Rango is one of the best, funniest, and strange animated movie I have ever watched. It’s Hunter Thompson mixed with Sergio Leone with a sprinkle of the Coen Brothers on top that’s neatly wrapped into a bizarre package by Gore Verbinski. Don’t show it to your kids, but get your closest friends and enjoy Rango.