Tuesday, March 29, 2011

No Man Can Walk Away from His Own Story

From out of the desert, a man with no name arrives in a run-down town in the Old West. And though that sounds like the plot of a stereotypical western, Rango takes the cliches and tweaks them. For one thing, this is no ordinary man; in fact, it's not a man at all. The title character is a chameleon who can't blend in because he has such a penchant for sticking out. And his eccentricities lead to him becoming the sheriff of and savior for a town called Dirt, where the residents are down to their last drop of water.

With a voice by Johnny Depp and direction by Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean), Rango is, unsurprisingly, a whole lot of fun. But it's also an affectionate tribute to other films that clearly served as inspiration, including High Noon, Chinatown, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. There's even a "cameo" by Clint Eastwood (though he's voiced by Timothy Olyphant). The colorful, vibrant animation by special effects powerhouse Industrial Light & Magic (this is the company's first full-length film) is nothing short of spectacular. We're talking Pixar-level detail and quality. Rango features some distinctive, albeit unattractive, characters. It's also got an enjoyable "Greek chorus" of birds, and music by Hans Zimmer. Good fun, indeed.

Is Rango for kids? Well, despite all the color and humor in the film, the kids around me were fidgety when I saw it. Could have been the 1:45 running time. The references definitely went over their heads, and the plot couldn't have been very relevant to them. But I enjoyed the film, and walked away impressed and amused. I'm giving Rango a B+.



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