Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Rango (2011)

Overall Score: 7.75/10

To be absolutely honest, it's not very often that I find myself turned off by a commercial for a movie and then perform a complete 180 when I finally seek it out for an official viewing. If anything, it is far more often that I am drawn in by a commercial and then sulk into a darkened corner and rant when the final product is unveiled. So, it is always a pleasant surprise to find a movie which without caution sails past my lowered expectations, and finds a place high upon my shelf of entertainment.

Last year, that movie was How to Train Your Dragon. This year, the movie is Rango. And believe me, the commercials couldn't be worse with respect to what this film is trying to do. Combining elements of Star Wars and the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns, whose connection might be less vague than you realize, with surrealism in the vein of Hitchcock/Dali's Spellbound, Rango is a mentally entrancing experience. An experience wrapped in the fragile shell of generic loner becomes hero, family stamped and approved storyline simplicity.

With more curious head turns than a Dancing With the Stars audience at a Higgs Boson seminar, Rango is a charming, lonely soul whose infectious stories and flamboyant mannerisms can take charge of any scene. Where many films deal only with surface level, external aspects of being lonely, Rango's is tackled internally, through the use of dream expositions. We see the power of a vivid imagination and dedication to a character, mixed in with the longing for friends who both appreciate, but also idolize you. You're not just good to them, you're the best to them. And in the case of Rango, that draw means more to him than even the most basic fundamentals of his personality.

Depp delivers a whimsical performance as the sporadic protagonist lizard, Rango. Rich in layers, and heavy on quirky, the character is T-ed up perfectly for Depp's cinematic persona. Ned Beatty continues racking up the villainous vocal roles transition from a cuddly teddy bear to the turtle mayor of Dirt. A straight forward, self-interested baddy whose evil ways rely more on Beatty's strong voice command than demonstrable action. And simply put, the movie couldn't handle much more characterization than that.

The rest of the cast is a hodge podge of worthwhile characters, each with their pre-associated character quirk to maintain their usefulness throughout the run time. There's not much digging to be had here, and the film's better for it. Rango is by all accounts a character piece, living the shadow of the family genre. It's only there because the main story wants to be, but it could easily transfer to another medium without fault.

That's not to say Rango is without faults. Despite the high voltage action, the film Rango can be as unfocused as its titular star. It can turn a hilarious moment that will split the guts of audiences right into the kind of comedy you'd expect to find on some Saturday morning cartoon rehashing the same joke over and over. Taking the ride of Rango is like hoping on a beast of a roller coaster. When it's high, it's as high as any would dare go, but when it's low... well, let's just say the fall is steep, quick, and may involve nausea. But it is to the endless credit of the talent involved that those low moments are brief and far between, using every bit of inertia to keep the movie going up.

Gore Verbinski may have lost me on the last two pirate films, but he sold me hook line and sinker here. Rango is a pure enjoyment of a watch. Granted, its referential obsessions may be lost on those without the cinema knowledge to back it up. Seriously people, if you're over forty and didn't get that was Clint Eastwood, you need a good talking too!

Film Credits:
Directed By - Gore Verbinski
Written By - John Logan

Addendum - Am I the only one who went 'oh come off it' when Music By Hans Zimmer rolled out into the credits? At least half the music in the movie was The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and the Harmonica theme from Once Upon a Time in the West.

8 better thoughts:

The Mad Hatter said...

Perhaps the most mis-marketed film of the year. Glad to see that you liked it buddy!

Andy Buckle said...

Absolutely agree on the mis-marketing. I had no desire to see it after watching the trailer. None. Then I heard some things...

Nice review Univarn!

Rachel [ f.g.i. ] said...

I'm glad that you liked it! It was much more 'adult' than I anticipated, which I found to be a pleasant surprise!

SugaryCynic said...

I knew when Hunter S. Thompson cameo'd that I was gonna love this movie. As for the music, I knew instantly it was Hans Zimmer because he did a lot of the same imitation-Ennio Morricone in the 3rd Pirates movie (don't ask).

Univarn said...

@Mad Was glad to enjoy it. I was a bit wary when it kicked off but it won me over as it went along.

@Andy Yeah, the marketing on this was dreadful. Whoever made that call really undersold their own potential - and dare I say voided this film almost entirely out of potential Oscar consideration, unless the rest of the animate slate for this year is as bad as I think it will be.

@Rachel I've noticed as of late more and more animated films dealing with some adult issues. Now, I know some people who resent that passionately, but I think it's for the best.

@Sugary Coincendentally that was the moment I was afraid I would hate this movie. It seemed so overtly tongue and cheek, but when balanced against the man with no name cameo I felt it was fine given what the film delivers.

Jack L said...

I'm definitely going to have to get around to this one.
I like Animated films in general and although at first this one didn't interest me in the slightest, mostly due to Johnny Depp and Gore Verbinski involvement, I'm looking forward to it now after reading so many great reviews.

Brittani Burnham said...

The commercials didn't sell me either, but after reading this I think I'll have to check it out.

Great review!

Nathan Donarum said...

Great review. I loved Rango, more than either Toy Story 3 or How To Train Your Dragon last year. If it had been released last year it would have definitely ended up near the top of my favorite animated movies of the year. As it stands, Pixar has a LOT to prove with Cars 2. I find it hard to imagine them outdoing the wild imagination of Rango. Even if the movie has faults, it's a joyous adventure. And one thing that I loved so much about it was that it didn't condescend to its audience; it has jokes available for kids (though not TOO young) as well as for adults. And for the cineasts out there, references both subtle and opaque to smile at. Furthermore, it didn't feel the need to force an "extra dimension" on us with contrived 3D. Rango proves that a 2D CGI movie can have more depth cinematographically than all the 3D gimmicks in the world, even when it's "done right".

I hope that Rango shows Hollywood that sometimes, taking risks can pay off big time.

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