Newest Review: ... character, it's by the team that did Pirates of the Carribean, so there's a chance. Well, the opening sequence had us puzzled in a good ... more
Rango - a chameleon's surreal rite of passage
Member Name: melinda3536
Advantages: A wildly imaginative retelling of an old theme
One Monday, I took our youngest with me to do the weekly grocery shopping. We came home with two DVDs (and the groceries, I hasten to add). One was Gnomeo & Juliet, the other was Rango. Youngest had watched Gnomeo at school with her mates at the end of term and they'd all had a laugh and enjoyed it, so it came recommended at least by a class of 10 year olds. We watched that first, and it was ok, animation was very good, the story was fine, nothing out of the ordinary but she was happy. Rango, however, came with no recommendations at all other than the trailer that I'd downloaded to my phone months before. I didn't remember hearing or reading anyone's comments on the film.
We would have liked to have seen it when it was released in the cinema, but like many other things last year, that went by-the-by. I was hoping that this would be The Film to restore my faith in newer animated movies. It's PG, it has Johnny Depp voicing the main character, it's by the team that did Pirates of the Carribean, so there's a chance. Well, the opening sequence had us puzzled in a good way, quirky, a bit surreal, then all becomes clearer (at least for a while) and we all settled in to watch this fascinating tale unfold. Rango is a chameleon, and this is his story of self-discovery. He has to fend for himself in the desert, having been unintentionally been released from his tank where he'd been kept as a pet.
The basic storyline, underneath many layers, is one that we have seen hundreds of times before - outsider comes to town, manages to become a hero by accident, gets found out & has to make good. But here, this almost plays second fiddle to brilliant characters (a town populated by wild west era desert creatures in full Western regalia), a major local environmental crisis and political corruption, jaw-dropping scenery, general quirky weirdness, and a mariachi band of desert owls who pop up occasionally to drop in fatalistic predictions on our hero. And in the middle of all this, Rango meets his 'fate' in a terrific dream sequence which I find exquisitely beautifully written, animated and musically accompanied.
The animation is stunning, quite incredible at times - the attention to detail is mindboggling. One of the benchmarks of quality for me in an animated movie is whether or not you continue to see more tiny details each time you watch, and this has those moments in abundance. Look out for the rainbows in fine water spray on a couple of occasions! If you've seen Pirates of the Carribean 3 / At World's End, that will give some idea as to the feel of this film, and some of the visual ideas that they came up with for that turn up here too. For instance, the scene where stones turn into thousands of crabs and end up carrying the ship across the desert is re-enacted with Rango being carried in a similar way. The chase scenes are brilliantly inventive, one involving a large number of bats. There are quotes from many different movies - I don't think we'll get them all for another few watches though.
It's quite a long film (one and three quarter hours) but every minute is worth it. Ok, some of the jokes are worthy of pantomime ("We are thespians!" "That's illegal in 7 states"), but I'll forgive them that - it's stunning, funny, puzzling, wonderful and very surreal at times. As a friend remarked, it's a total joy to watch. And watch it again we shall (youngest is watching it again already this morning) - but not too often. I don't want to lose the wonder and take this gem for granted.
The film was nominated best animated movie of 2011 at the Golden Globes, won the award at the BAFTAS, and is Oscar-nominated.
Selected cast (voices only)
Rango - Johnny Depp
Beans - Isla Fisher
Mayor - Ned Beatty
Roadkill - Alfred Molina
Rattlesnake Jake - Bill Nighy
Bad Bill - Ray Winstone
Directed, co-written and co-produced by Gore Verbinski
Original score by Hans Zimmer
Summary: A brilliant gem of a film which somehow got overlooked in the cinemas.