Starring the voice talent of Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher and Ned Beatty
Directed by Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean)
Rated PG for rude humor, language, action and smoking
Appropriate for ages 8+
When an eccentric pet chameleon separates from his owner and finds himself stranded in the desert, he winds up in the town of Dirt, a rundown Wild West outpost with a water shortage and no sheriff. Calling himself Rango, the chameleon finds himself on the fortunate end of a battle with the town’s worst enemy, a hawk, and becomes a hero to the animals in deep need of one.
If the Coen brothers ever decided to do an animated film, I would picture it looking much like this. It’s beautiful, quirky, and well told with some really great performances by the ensemble. While the scale of the animals feels off since all of the creatures are roughly the same size, they are still wonderfully conceived and stunningly put on film. Better than that though, the characters are well-written. I realize that much of the plot of the film is a cross between China Town and Pale Rider, but it still comes off as original and charming, and most of the audience won’t catch the easy references.
Much like the voice recording of Fantastic Mr. Fox, the cast was recorded while actually acting around each other, rather than by the actors by themselves alone in a studio. This type of recording obviously brought out the best in these performers and managed to make the action much more enjoyable. Johnny Depp, who carries the film as Rango is superb, and unlike characters voiced by the likes of Jack Black, Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, I wouldn’t have even known it was Depp had his name not been plastered over the title. He really gets into the character here and turns in a much stronger performance than he did in his Golden Globe nominated role in The Tourist. The rest of the cast here is also pretty darn solid and the good time they had making it comes through in the finished project.
While I know it will be hard to get your young kids not to see it, I will say that some parents will have a big problem with the language. It’s probably not enough to garner a PG-13 rating, but there are enough hells and damns to throw off any parent who might be trying to “earmuff” their kids. What stinks is that the bad language is unnecessary and the filmmakers should have had better sense than to include it in a film that will make most of its money from families.
Overall, I think that while this is not nearly as good as the best animated films of 2010, it is on par with the likes of Kung Fu Panda and Despicable Me in entertainment value. A-