DIR: Gore Verbinski WRI: John Logan, Gore Verbininski, James Ward Byrkit • PRO: John B. Carls, Graham King, Gore Verbinski • ED: Craig Wood • DES: Mark ‘Crash’ McCreery • Cast: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Timothy Olyphant
There seems to be a trend of late among Hollywood directors to have a go at animation. Last year we had Zac Snyder, the director of adult fare such as 300 and Watchmen, give us Legends Of The Guardians. David Fincher is currently producing The Goon. Spielberg and Jackson are combining their talents for the mo-capped Tintin. And here was have Rango, from the director of The Ring and Pirates Of The Caribbean. However, despite this trend-following, it may be the only animation feature released in 2011 not to be released in 3D, which is real shame, as the film would’ve looked even more fantastic with that extra dimension.
It’s probably not unfair to call this one of the most beautiful animations ever to be released. At times so photo realistic you’ll be convinced it’s not a cartoon, while at others so off-kilter and borderline hallucinogenic, you’ll swear it was directed by Salvador Dali on acid, there is no other film, animated or not, that can be easily compared to its hypnotic beauty.
However, story wise, it does trip up slightly. Rango (voiced by Johnny Depp), gets accidentally lost in the Mojave Desert. He happens upon the town of Dirt, who confuse him for a famous gun slinger. The town promptly make him their Sheriff, and he is charged with discovering the cause of their water-shortage. As plots go, it’s very slight, but it rattles along at such a pace that you don’t have time to realise it doesn’t matter.
When the film isn’t busy trying to tell the story, or selling it’s slightly muddy deeper meaning (which may or may not be about selflessness, or possibly self-belief, it wasn’t clear), its busy trying to be funny. And for the most part, it succeeds. Johnny Depp voices Rango to perfection, and the character is quite a unique combination of conflicting characteristics, most enjoyable of which is his confusion of witty comebacks with mind-boggling non-sequiturs: when asked if he misses his Mommy, Rango angrily replies with ‘Not as much as your daddy’s cooking!’
Which leads to the main fault with the film; non-sequiturs are all well and good for anyone who knows what a non-sequitur is, but this a cartoon. Ideally aimed at young kids, Rango is incredibly dark. There are jokes about murder, Deliverance, suicide, sex stuff, a fantastic one about Clint Eastwood, and that most depressingly adult of subjects, a recession, so much of the humour will fly right over the heads of the younger kids. While at the same time, some of the villain’s will be scary enough to leave a bedwetting impression.
But chances are even they will forget all that while watching one of the movie’s many, genuinely impressive action sequences. So it’s got jokes for the adults, sugar rush fun for the kids, and artistic merit for those who don’t like to admit they go to see cartoons now that they’re all grown up. Something for everyone.
IFCO website for details)
Rango is released on 4th March 2011