I almost didnít go to the screening of Rango
because animation is not really my thing, but it turns out that Johnny Depp is irresistible Ė even when itís only his voice! Rango
is Industrial Light & Magicís foray into Pixar territory, and the film is a lot of fun. Adults will enjoy all the parody of the western film genre, but most kids wonít get that part of it. However, they really relate to the Rango character. I saw one 5-year-old imitating him on the way out. His mother confirmed that and added that it even kept the attention of her younger children because there was, as she said, plenty of action.
Rango is a pet chameleon with an over-active imagination, who finds himself in the bone-dry town, Dirt, when his terrarium falls from his ownerís car and shatters by the side of a desert highway. Rango has passed his time by inventing scenarios in which heís a hero coming to the rescue of a damsel in distress, and in Dirt he finds he can play that role for the desperate-for-water residents of this stereo-typical western town. The damsel, although sheís not really in distress because sheís pretty plucky, is Beans, voiced by Isla Fisher. Abigail Breslin voices Priscilla, whose wide-eyed admiration for Rango adds a poignant touch when Rango finds himself in a do-or-die situation. Ned Beatty voices the Mayor, the evil controller of the water, and Bill Nighy is outstanding as the voice of Rattlesnake Jack, the Mayorís henchman. Rangoís own naivetť blinds him to the real villains, and his improvised ďheroĒ braggadocio brings him to the brink of humiliation and despair. It takes the Spirit of the West, voiced by Timothy Olyphant doing a dead-on Clint Eastwood imitation, to restore his dignity and lead him down the true heroic path.
Dirt displays the epitome of the Old West town on the verge of extinction through the dominant use of browns and grays. The only bright colors are associated with Rango and Beans. The residents of Dirt are all different kinds of animals and birds although itís sometimes hard to tell just what they are. Roadrunners, all saddled-up, serve as horses. Dirt has all the required elements of the western genre: hitching posts, the saloon, the bank, board sidewalks. There is violence and death in this story, and I heard the many children in the audience cry out and squeal a couple of times. Itís not G-rated, itís PG, so donít go looking for a sugary-sweet Disney confection. Itís clever and edgy enough to entertain adults and teens as well as the kiddos.
Initially, I wondered how adults would respond to the film, so I asked the twenty-something fellow sitting next to me what he expected just before the film began. He indicated that he didnít expect that much, but when the film ended, he commented that he ďloved itĒ with enthusiasm. His girlfriend seconded the motion. I personally thought the film was about 20 minutes too long, but they disagreed. Johnny Deppís rambling, eccentric dialogue is a delight for adults, and Rangoís appearance is totally kid-friendly. I personally would not take children under five to this film, but for those five and over and their parents, itís an enjoyable experience.