Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Kid-Friendly Western… With Lizards

The Nateflix Review of Rango
By NateHensley

Rango is a chameleon who wears Hawaiian shirts, and does one-man shows in his aquarium. His a quirky, weird little dude… basically the lizard version of Johnny Depp (who, by no small coincidence, provides Rango’s voice). As the film opens, Rango’s tank falls out of a moving vehicle, and he is stranded in the middle of the desert. He wanders, bounces off Hunter S Thompson and Dr. Gonzo (not kidding), and ends up in the squalid town of Dirt.

One misunderstanding later, and Rango is the new sheriff. Dirt is besieged by drought, and the residents (all manner of lizards, amphibians, birds, and furry little rodents) need hope. Rango is completely incapable of delivering on this hope, but no matter – they don’t know that, and the weird sheriff seems content to play along for as long as he can.

But there are other, more nefarious forces at play. Like Rattlesnake Jake who terrorizes the town, a clan of hillbilly moles who ride killer bats, a hungry hawk, and a turtle Mayor who just oozes evil (although maybe he just seems evil because he’s voiced by Ned Beatty on the heels of being that evil Lotso the Bear in Toy Story 3). So Rango will either be exposed as a fraud,or have to step up and become a genuine hero.

Rango is a fun family movie. It has humor, wit, and animation that is both exquisitely detailed and rough around the edges. But at its core, it’s really an old-fashioned western, which is what makes it memorable. Director Gore Verbinski has shown himself a steady hand with horror (The Ring) and with swashbuckling (The first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies), and now shows he has the chops for a western. It may be a little startling and violent in places for smaller children, but overall it’s a very polished piece of work, coming from a first-time kid’s movie director.

As tremendous as the animation is, I personally thought it was upstaged by the quality of the voice work. In addition to Depp and Beatty, the cast includes Bill Nighy, Ray Winstone, Abigail Breslin, Isla Fisher, Alfred Molina, Harry Dean Stanton, Stephen Root, and Timothy Olyphant (who only has one scene, but it steals the whole dang movie). So as good as the movie looks, it’s the people behind it that give it personality and true grit.

Rango is a solid piece of entertainment, with enough going on to satisfy viewers both young and old.

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