Rango: Blend In (2011)

Posted: December 5, 2011 in Adventure, Animated, Comedy

Solo thespian Lars is on a trip across the country when the car hits a bump and sends his glass home flying out the back window. As he attempts to survive the scorching heat, a wise armadillo advises him to go on his journey. The harsh elements and an aggressive hawk nearly take his life but he finds temporary shelter. When he bumps into a farmer named Beans, he gets a ride into town and finds himself in an environment where he is clearly out of his element. Given the chance to choose his backstory, he takes on the persona of Rango, the quick shooting hero who has incredible skill and confidence. After getting a chance to prove himself and meet with the mayor, Rango becomes the town’s new sheriff and is tasked with the impossible mission of saving the bank’s water supply. There is evil dealing afoot but Rango has much more than just a bunch of outlaws to battle with to discover the truth.

Starring: Johnny Depp (Rango), Isla Fisher (Beans), Abigail Breslin (Priscilla), Ned Beatty (Mayor), Alfred Molina (Roadkill), Bill Nighy (Rattlesnake Jake), Stephen Root (Doc/Merrimack/Mr. Snuggles), Harry Dean Stanton (Balthazar), Timothy Olyphant (Spirit of the West), Ray Winstone (Bad Bill), Ian Abercrombie (Ambrose)

In this cleverly animated feature includes a rather talented array of actors and comedians. Johnny Depp generally plays fairly confident characters, but Rango is a step in another direction. Although out of the norm, he does a great job combining moments of false confidence with nervous bumbling. Though western landowner is not the first thing that comes to mind regarding Isla Fisher, it is a bit of a shock to hear her voice her character so well. Having recently played the villain of the hit Toy Story 3, Ned Beatty continues the trend and is convincing as the devious mayor of the town of Dirt. Stephen Root and James Ward Byrkit both play an array of characters and provide enough diversity in their presentation to give each character their own personality. The infamous “Spirit of the West” is played by Timothy Olyphant and he is able to channel his inner Clint Eastwood during his big scene.

While this may be a cartoon and rated PG, Gore Verbinski’s Rango is not the typical children’s film. The movie contains a number of untraditional themes and images that are normally left out of modern children’s movies, including smoking, death and overly adult references. The script also is much more developed than the traditional ramblings of cartoon characters. Depp gives Rango more of a slick, city-talking style, even when he takes on the western persona. Other characters attempt to interpret what he means but even some of those explanations are more complicated that children may understand. The storyline is still rather traditional (with the hero needing to go through a transformation before being able to truly experience his heroic moment) but the path to get there is more complicated than it seems.

The presentation of the film is rather stunning. It is interesting how the animators were able to both preserve the harsh desert environment and make the characters so vibrant. Rango, though the bent neck provides a little character, is able to emote such a wide range of reactions to the other townsfolk. Rattlesnake Jake also has a lot of detail and moves so fluidly. The owl quartet adds an additional level of animation detail but also progressive through the story.

Rango is a film for all ages, but teenagers and adults will actually find a lot more out of this film than the traditional kids movie. Where Shrek appealed to all age ranges because of the sophisticated and popular references throughout the film, Rango is able to achieve similar success without the references and more through the integration of a great presentation and developed dialogue.

Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5

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