Featuring the Voices of:
Johnny Depp as Rango / Lars
Isla Fisher as Beans
Abigail Breslin as Priscilla
Ned Beatty as Mayor
Alfred Molina as Roadkill
Bill Nighy as Rattlesnake Jake
Written by John Logan
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Running Time: 1:47
Rated PG for rude humor, language, action and smoking.
Rango was a fantastic looking film, with animation like I've never seen before, but the story was a little weak and the movie felt really long.
Rango is a lizard who lives a life of luxury inside of a fish tank. But one day, while being transported across the desert, his fish tank is thrown out of the back of a car and Rango is left to fend for himself. He runs into an armadillo, who has been run over in the middle of the street, who tells him of a spiritual journey each creature must make. Rango isn't sure what to make of it, but starts on a journey towards the city of Dirt. Along the way he meets Beans, one of the residents of Dirt. She tells him that the city is almost at an end because there is no more water. Rango enters the town and realizes he can reinvent himself as someone much stronger and the townsfolk love him so much, they make him Sheriff. But when the town's last remaining water is stolen out from under his nose, it's up to Rango and his posse to track down the culprits and bring water back to Dirt. Little does he know, one of their own may be behind the dastardly deed.
The first thing you'll notice about Rango is the animation. This is the first animated film done by George Lucas' ILM, better known for their groundbreaking special effects. And the animation here was amazing. The richness and the detail was off the charts. Unfortunately, they picked a slow script with which to launch their animation department. While I loved how it looked, I wasn't that into the story. At its heart, the story was simple - a mild-mannered lizard walks into a town in need of help, and he changes his personality to win the town over, along with a girl he seems to like. It backfires, but he manages to pick himself up and right the ship. It's a story that has been done a thousand times, just generally not as visually striking. Except there is also a big existential thread that runs throughout the movie, culminating with Rango in the middle of the desert taking to someone who looks a lot like Clint Eastwood. The movie is marketed as a standard kids' film but in reality, the storyline and the impressive animation are really more geared towards adults. Yes, there are some scenes that kids will appreciate, and they may enjoy the colorfulness of the characters, but all in all I'm not sure they'll like this as much as other animated fare. The story is going to go over their heads and there are some really scary sequences that may make them cower in their parents' arms. A lot of the jokes were also verbal rather than visual, which won't help much. From an older point of view, I can see people appreciating the film for what it was, but it's the kind of film that won't last. I saw The Adjustment Bureau the next day with the same person I saw this film with, and the one thing we agreed one was that while Rango was decent, it wasn't the kind of film you really think about afterwards. It was rather disposable.
Beyond the animation, the voice talent was pretty good. Johnny Depp was his usual strong self and the lead lizard. I understand that this animation was done slightly differently, in that the actors actually acted out the parts as they were voicing them, giving the animators something to work off of. I could easily see Johnny rumbling around a sound stage trying his fancy walks and goofball reactions. The other real voice/character standout was his old Pirates of the Caribbean running mate Bill Nighy as Rattlesnake Jake. His voice was perfect for the outlaw snake, and the character animation was once again spectacular. And this is the character that could have kids quivering in their shoes because it was rather frightening. It was arguably the best looking/most scary animated villain you'll see and it wasn't just in his look, it was in his actions. He nearly squeezes to death a couple of characters and he doesn't seem to care the least about them. The rest of the voices were also pretty good, and once again it was the animation that really lifted them. As the movie goes on, you lose that amazement in the animation however, and you want a story you can sink your teeth into. While the story would have been passable, it felt really long towards the end, as if an extra 20 minutes were tacked on for no real reason. I would have appreciated a quicker paced story to hold my attention, but I am looking forward to seeing what ILM can do for an encore.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I feel mixed about Rango. I thought the animation was amazing, but the story didn't hold up. The movie felt really long at times, and even the great voice work of Johnny Depp couldn't save it.