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March 4, 2011
Review - " Rango "  -  (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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plot machinations and playful jabs at Westerns of old.

The film opens on a Mariachi band of burrowing
owls in sombreros serenading the audience,
inviting us to “enjoy our confections” as they sing
us the tale of our doomed hero. Forthwith we meet
a crooked chameleon with a lopsided head (voiced
by Johnny Depp, who can apparently do anything)
acting out a lonely fantasy with a broken Barbie
doll and a wind-up fish. “That’s it!” he proclaims,
unsatisfied with his own performance. “Our hero
can’t exist in a vacuum!” Obviously, he needs
some outside force to propel him into action! (This
kind of patently plain foreshadowing punctuates
the film.) Shortly, our chameleon and his aquarium are thrown out the car’s back windshield, where he finds himself in the
southwestern desert, frying in the heat and shedding his skin. He meets a cryptic, wise armadillo who directs him toward Dirt,
a little town a day away. In Dirt, the chameleon christens himself Rango and impresses the townsfolk (owls, moles, lizards, and
other desert creatures) with his flair for dramatics. It’s not too long before they make him Sherriff - and task him with finding
precious agua to keep the town alive.

Every hero needs a leading lady, and in Rango’s case it’s Beans (Isla Fisher), a sassy frontierswoman (lizard) whose only
flaw is her natural defense mechanism - to go completely stock-still at random moments. He meets the smarmy, power-hungry
Mayor (Ned Beatty), an aged turtle in a wheelchair who promises his people water and offers them spooky religious imagery.
In any self-respecting flick a true hero has to suffer through a spell of self-doubt, and Rango gets his. But before long…well,
of course our bumbling, hapless hero saves the day. Don’t they always? He is also followed around by a chorus of mariachi-
band owls who seem to be actively rooting for his demise.

What truly makes Rango exceptional, though, is that Industrial Light and Magic’s animation may have Pixar’s artists shivering
in their cowboy boots. Every scale on Rango’s chartreuse face, every strand of fur on the tiny desert pigs, each downy
feather on a turkey’s visage, is lovingly rendered. Perhaps most remarkable is the detail in the creatures’ eyes. Verbinski
consulted with Academy Award-nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins, and as a result the animation is brilliant—were it
not for the, you know, talking animals, you’d think the desert landscapes were real. And thank the Hollywood heavens
Verbinski didn’t see the need to make Rango in 3D—it’s pretty perfect as is.

Rango may not see quite the level of success last year’s major animated pictures did, but it is sure to delight adults with its
intelligence and children with its impeccably
executed animation. Its characters won’t burrow
into your heart like the beloved robots of WALL-E
or the dejected toys of the Toy Story movies, but
for a springtime evening in the theater, they’ll
certainly do. Fair warning, though: these critters
are more frightening than cute - particularly
Rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy). If you long for the
days of John Wayne, wish for the smarts that were
lacking in the acceptably adorable Gnomeo and
Juliet, or just have a love for Johnny Depp, you’ll
appreciate Rango.
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Starring: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill
Nighy, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone

This weekend’s animated Spaghetti Western Rango. It’s a playful love
note to John Ford, John Wayne, and Clint Eastwood. It’s beautifully
rendered, stylishly written, and a lot darker in tone than you’d think.

The story follows the comical, transformative journey of Rango (Depp), a
sheltered chameleon living as an ordinary family pet, while facing a major
identity crisis. After all, how high can you aim when your whole purpose in
life is to blend in? When Rango accidentally winds up in the gritty, gun-
slinging town of Dirt - a lawless outpost populated by the desert's most
wily and whimsical creatures - the less-than-courageous lizard suddenly
finds he stands out. Welcomed as the last hope the town has been
waiting for, new Sheriff Rango is forced to play his new role to the hilt...
until, in a blaze of action-packed situations and encounters with
outrageous characters, Rango starts to become the hero he once only
pretended to be. With a cast that includes Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail
Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone and
Timothy Olyphant, Rango is an exciting new twist on the classic Western
legend of the outsider who saves a town - and himself in the process.

Rango may be a Nickelodeon movie, but it’s bleaker and sharper than
your average kid fare. It’s rated PG, so no worries as to whether or not it’s
appropriate for your little one’s delicate sensibilities - but it may not suit
her tastes. Adults, though, will find themselves chuckling at film-school
Rango is thoroughly charming because it
deliberately strums those self-referential, witty
chords that delight us so. It pokes at overplayed,
legendary Western thematic material while
remaining droll and almost—but not quite—too
smart for its own good. I suspect the adult jokes
will sail over kids' heads while they laugh at the
sight of an all-animal posse roaring across a
John Ford landscape on roadrunners, but
frankly, the adult jokes are some of the best
parts of the movie.