PG Cooper: Rango Review

Posted: March 13, 2011 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Release date: March 4th, 2011

Written by: John Logan

Directed by: Gore Verbinski

Starring: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty, Ray Winstone, and Bill Nighy

I remember when I first saw the trailer for this, I thought it looked like such a mixed bag. On one hand, the animation was clearly great. But the actual movie didn’t like all that good. Then the film came out and received mass praise. People loved this film, and it seemed every critic under the sun loved it. So I figured I should check it out. Especially since some of the reviews had referenced that the trailer for the film was not that great. So this morning my little brother and I went and checked this out, I figured that, if nothing else, the film would be entertaining.

Rango is a lonely chameleon riding in the back of his owner’s van at the very start of the film. Through a mishap, Rango finds himself separated and stranded in the Nevada desert. He meets an armadillo (Alfred Molina) who tells him to walk into the desert and eventually he will come across a town. After an intense chase and some fun characters are introduced, Rango arrives at the town of Dirt, a town taken right out of your classic western, populated entirely by desert animals. Through a mishap, Rango ends up becoming the sheriff of the town and must contend with all threats that come that way, as well as the town’s water crisis.

The setup is fairly standard for an animated film, but the execution is very good. The protagonist propelled into a position of power through a misunderstanding is a common plot line in films, especially kids films. That said, the story does take a lot of twists and turns and at times does surprise you. Early on, the film establishes that it isn’t afraid to kill characters off, so you never are too sure whose gonna get the axe and who isn’t. This really adds to the film and heightens the tension. The story builds very well. The third act is especially exciting and actually pretty epic.

The town of Dirt is populated with colorful and interesting characters. Even the smallest characters who you only see in the background walking by are full of life. A big reason for this is the animation. Most of the time in animated CGI films, the animals are big eyed and cute. Not here. The film understands it’s a western, and it shows in the characters. These creatures are gritty, ugly, big, dirty, and even deformed. Every character looks unique and every time they introduced a new character I couldn’t help but be impressed with the animation.

The other thing  that solidifies how great these characters are is the voices behind these brilliantly animated creatures. Every character is brilliantly voiced from your main characters to even the tiniest of supporting characters. With so many great characters, my favourites were Ned Beatty as Tortoise John, the Mayor of Dirt, Ray Winstone as Bad Bill, a local outlaw, and Bill Nighy as Rattlesnake Jake. The last character was especially awesome. His character is described and built up throughout the film before he’s finally revealed and when he finally is, it’s a really great moment and maybe the highlight of the film. Timothy Olyphant also does a good job and has one of the coolest cameos I’ve ever seen. I’m not gonna spoil it, you need to see it for yourself.

The one character I have yet to mention is the title one, Rango. The reason for this is out of all the characters, he’s the only one that annoyed me from time to time. Now before you get the wrong idea, I will say that ultimately I liked his character. But there were moments here and there that really annoyed me. At times, he seemed like your typical over the top character that you always see in kids films. Not all the time mind you, and sometimes his zaniness if you well is funny and even charming. I will say though, I felt guilty for being annoyed by Rango at times because at the end of the film I was completely behind his character and he becomes something of a  badass.

One of the greatest aspects of this film are the action scenes. They are fantastic, plain and simple. The movie opens with an immensely enjoyable set piece that shows Rango being knocked out of his car and whipped around traffic. The scene is funny, but more than that, it’s incredibly exciting and really gets your blood pumping. Really that’s the best way to describe all the action scenes in this film. There are chases, fights, shootouts, and combination’s of the three. The film also has some of the best flying sequences since How To Train Your Dragon. It’s still very early in the year, but it’s gonna take a lot for another movie to come along with better action scenes this year.

This may be a kid’s film, but it doesn’t really pander to them. As mentioned early, the film isn’t afraid to kill off their characters. The characters look dark and gritty, and there is a lot of action. There are also some darker scenes, including one with Rattlesnake Jake literally squeezing the life out of a certain character. Plus there are quite a few surreal,  hallucinogenic scenes. There’s even some crude language. You never hear anybody dropping F-bombs or anything, but you do hear a lot of “hell” and damn”. Even the humor can be pretty adult. There are some sly sexual references and a very obvious cavity search joke. That said, there are a few jokes that don’t work if you’re older and feel like they were only put in to satisfy the kids. All in all, kids will probably like this film, but I really respect and enjoy that the film never tries too hard to entertain the kids.

Rango is more than a great animated film, and it’s more than a great western. Rango is a great film, plain and simple. It’s a great film, and you owe it to yourself to see it. Watching this with my brother, we laughed throughout and we just had a blast. No matter who you are, there is a lot to like about Rango. There are a few jokes that don’t work and some moments from the Rango character that kinda bugged me, but these are minor gripes. This film is easily among Pixar’s best and is actually better than a lot of their films.

Rating: A-

  1. ianthecool says:

    This certainly sounds like an interesting movie, if nothing else. Claiming it to be not only a great animated movie but also a great western intrigues me, as it doesn’t seem like that should be the case.

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