Rango (2011)

Rango (2011) – The following review first appeared as part of a larger article (“Now in Theaters”) on 12ftdwende.com on 11 March 2011.

Speaking of better movies that cost less than a 3D movie… I fucking loved this one. There’s been kind of a kickass trend of live action director’s taking their skills to animation. George Miller (Mad Max) did Happy Feet and Zack Snyder (Watchmen, 300, Dawn of the Dead) did The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. Now Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean 1-3, The Ring, The Mexican, Mouse Hunt) joins their ranks with Rango, and he brings along Oscar-nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins (The Shawshank Redemption, No Country For Old Men) as a visual consultant. The result is one of the most visually stunning animated films of recent memory. The film borders of photorealism in some respects, though the character design reminds you you’re watching a cartoon. We meet our initially nameless protagonist (Johnny Depp) as he is improvising his rich fantasy life from the safe confines of his terrarium. He seems to be that very specific type of insane that results from spending large amounts of time by oneself. Through a rather sudden and jarring series of events he finds himself alone in the Nevada desert before coming across a small wild west town called Dirt, inhabited by critters and varmints. Calling himself Rango, he quickly becomes the sheriff and sets out to solve the many problems facing this small town. The town is suffering from drought, the mayor (Ned Beatty, impersonating John Huston in Chinatown) may be corrupt, and a ruthless gunslinger named Rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy) is coming back to town. Rango is loaded with stylistic references not only to spaghetti westerns but also flicks like Star Wars and Apocalypse Now, but without ever binging out on pop culture like the Shrek franchise. It’s kind of a weird acid trip of movie (complete with a cameo by our old friends Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo) but I loved every minute of it (okay, the spider freaked me out, but he wasn’t in very much of it… probably to cater to pussies like me). This isn’t the kind of safe family entertainment that more and more studios seem to be putting out, but it takes chances and accomplishes something great. I think the early front-runner for next year’s Best Animated Feature has arrived.

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