A Review by Slamadam!
Director: Gore Verbinski
Starring: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, and Ned Beatty
Plot: When Rango’s four-walled reality comes crashing down around him, he finds himself on a surrealist existential journey across the American desert. When he makes his way to Dirt, a small shantytown full of eccentric characters, the once timid Rango pretends to be a Western hero getting way over his head.
Rango is an interesting film. It collects a number of allusions and references and chains them together in such a way that it feels fresh and exciting.
Rango is like an American Odyssey. Like Odysseus, Rango is a man of constant pain and sorrow. An actor by trade, Rango thirsts for an audience. He fantasizes of one day finding adventure and excitement that cannot be found within his terrarium. He even eventually gets into trouble with water, similarly to Odysseus who pissed of Poseidon.
Existentialism is a popular theme in animated movies. Usually these animated characters already have an identity but find a different and better one. Rango explores the theme more directly. Not only does Rango ask the question, “Who am I?” he is also almost totally without identity struggling to find his place. This struggle does a number on the plot structure causing a serious up and down of tone and pacing. Instead of wallowing in this fault, it stands proud testing the audience’s ability to cohere.
With obvious allusions to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the movie is surreal beyond any all-ages animated film has ever dared to be. It is trippy in a life-affirming way bringing out the twisted beauty beyond the pale reality. Created with a healthy appreciation for Salvador Dali, the western landscape is filled with ridiculous visions including a large floating wind up toy and a disembodied torso with a single arm, Rango’s first romantic interest. The animation is seamless. The textures are rough and the movements are fluid. This aids in the overwhelming feeling of dehydration.
Rango’s time in the town is hilarious in a Mel Brooks meets Mel Blanc kind of way. Its full of old school classics like burping fire and cat and mouse games, but at the same time, the dialog is peppered with subtlety and word play reminiscent of Monty Python. Johnny Depp and the casts excel. Gore Verbinski’s “emotion capture” technique really made the film stand out. The emotional reference points help draw the visuals in such a way that it would be near impossible to feel nothing.
In a key moment in the film, Rango meets The Spirit of the West. A mysterious figure who comes to him in the shape of Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name (perfectly homaged by Timothy Olyphant). His cryptic speech aside, this vision speaks so much of who Rango is: a man with no name, identity, or home desperate for answers without knowing the questions yet finding himself in situations that force him to stand up and be counted.
It is rare to see such a fantastic movie make it to cinemas so early in the year. Despite everything fantastic about this movie, it may prove to be too abstract for younger people and too infantile for more mature ones. There is without a doubt an audience out there that will fall in love with it and watch it over and over finding something new each time.
NINE out of TEN