Movie Review: Rango

It was with a lot of trepidation that I sat down to watch Rango.  I am trying to catch up on all the films from 2011 that I haven’t seen and sat through a few bad ones that got good reviews. And this may have been the most liked film, on average, from the critics I actually listen to.  It’s not the top film on their year end awards, not sure why, but when it came out they all seemed to rave about it.  So I was a bit worried I was going to be let down again.

Like Captain America and a few films I missed in theaters, I was shooting White Space when this came out. It was definitely on my radar.  As someone who loves animation and doesn’t necessarily buy into everything Pixar puts out, I was excited to see a new player stepping up to the plate. Directed by Gore Verbinski and voiced by Johnny Depp, this was something I have wanted to see but had to wait for on video…

And boy am I sorry about that.  From the opening frames to the closing frames, this was a visual treat.  I haven’t had this much fun with a movie since seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  Rango takes the western genre and classic animated fare, mashes them together – and then spins it on its head.  I can’t believe this only got a PG rating, because there are some serious things going on in this film and with that is death.  And not the heart-wrenching Bambi kind.

Depp does a great job voicing Rango, and he is fully realized as a character.  In fact, the script is top notch.  But what really stood out to me was the visual style and directing of the film.  It may have been the most visually striking animated film I’ve ever seen.  Verbinski is obviously an accomplished director, but what he was able to pull off here – from tiny flourishes to big spectacle – is astounding.

There are some extraordinary sequences in this film that had me on the edge of my seat, as well as my jaw on the floor.  The townsfolk, led by Rango, get into a chase/battle with an outlaw gang that is worthy of the best animated film Oscar in and of itself.

There was one small issue I had with the film.  It was such a realized world they created, and then at one point Rango runs into the actual ‘Man Without a Name’… Clint Eastwood as an animated character.  But he’s a human and Rango is a lizard.  And we’re in a world where these animals and lizards all interact, carry guns, build a town, etc… to see and interact with humans took me right out of this.  And it wasn’t necessary.  As much as I love Clint, particularly during his western days, they could have achieved this without this scene and kept the story rooted in some semblance of reality for that world.  But this is a somewhat small gripe (and scene) within a larger, exquisite work.

I really can’t say enough about this film. I’m sorry I missed my chance to see this on a big screen with great sound. It vaulted into my top 10 of the year and now I have to do some reordering.

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