Review by Jack Foley
GORE Verbinski unearthed box office gold when he turned a theme park ride into one of the biggest franchises of recent years with Pirates of the Caribbean. Whether he can repeat the trick with animated oddity Rango remains to be seen.
Part spaghetti western homage, part children’s knockabout comedy and part existential angst drama, Rango can proudly lay claim to being one of the more inventive entries into a genre that isn’t short on inspiration.
It looks very distinct, it occasionally borders on genius but there are also problems with pacing and several moments that could well fly over the head of any viewer, no matter what age. As such, it suffers from many of the same issues that bedevilled Verbinski’s Pirates movies, while being more of a film buff’s treat than a children’s guilty pleasure.
Rango (voiced by Johnny Depp) is a pet chameleon who, following a near-miss accident in the middle of the desert, is forced to go on an adventure to find his true self.
Winding up in the water-starved town of Dirt, Rango becomes an unlikely hero with talk of his imagined heroics and is quickly turned into town sheriff by the (tortoise) Mayor (Ned Beatty), promising to bring an end to the drought and uncover the truth about what is happening to it while battling various ruthless bandits.
One of the many pleasures in watching Rango unfold lies in its innumerable movie references, which range from the obvious nods to Sergio Leone and John Ford to genre pieces like Chinatown and even Depp’s Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.
It’s also enlivened by an absurdist sense of humour that yields some laugh out loud moments (witness Rango’s first encounter with the Ray Winstone voiced Bad Bill), and several well choreographed action sequences (including a neat chase scene set to Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyrie).
Depp, meanwhile, brings his trademark charisma to the voice duties of the central character, imbuing him with a very defined sense of the eccentric, while the likes of Winstone, Harry Dean Stanton, Bill Nighy and Isla Fisher do well in supporting roles.
The biggest hat’s off, however, goes to Timothy Olyphant for his belated vocal bow as The Man With No Name – a mid-existential angst sequence that is spot on in its reverence (both visually and vocally) to Clint Eastwood.
However, as great as all of these components undoubtedly are, Verbinski does push his limits by allowing things to run for a lengthy 107 minutes (which is way too long for most animations) and taking one too many detours into unnecessary plot developments.
His film would have left a far greater lasting impression if it had cut some of its excesses and perhaps trimmed some of the more obscure references.
As things stand, Rango is a flawed but no less enjoyable experience that still has the capacity to become a big draw. An animated movie with cult appeal.
Running time: 107mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: July 25, 2011
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Isla Fisher interview
- Abigail Breslin interview
- Gore Verbinski interview
- Rango Photo Gallery