“Rango” a yarn of a different color
Leapin’ lizards! The first feature film by Industrial Light and Magic is a landmark of sorts. “Rango” is that rare PG-rated animated film geared primarily toward adults and features a stunning, resolutely 2:D visual style that should give Pixar a run for its money come awards time. (Though it’s much too early to discuss that topic.)
That’s not to say pre-teens and older youth won’t enjoy “Rango,” but young ones may demand more silliness (and their parents more innocence) than offered here. After all, at its core, “Rango” is an old-fashioned western that just happens to feature a cast of oddball characters made up of reptiles, badgers, moles, amphibians, birds and other wildly imagined wildlife-with a domesticated chameleon as the town hero.
Voiced superbly and almost unrecognizably by Johnny Depp, the title character is thrown from his home aquarium while traveling by car in the desert. Now separated from his comfy confines where he rehearsed his thespian ambitions, “Rango” ends up becoming the town sheriff, under the false pretense of his alleged bravery. Now the parched townspeople of Dirt need him to help find a missing water supply and bring the bad critters to justice.
Part celebration of the spaghetti western, complete with rolling tumbleweeds and a frontier-inspired soundtrack, “Rango” does justice to its Sam Peckinpah-inspired heritage with some Ingmar Bergman existentialism thrown in for good measure. While it may contain every cliché culled from western movie history, it does so with verve and conviction and an uncanny knack for bringing to life the most fascinating bunch of offbeat characters since that cantina on Mos Eisley.
The other terrific vocal talents used include Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Ned Beatty, Ray Winstone and Bill Nighy. For all the familiar formula that “Rango” relies on, the craft on display sets it apart and reaffirms that 3:D-a technology still iffy to many film patrons-is not an essential requirement in the animated genre.
“Rango” is quirky in all the right ways, and, while not perfect, will be a tough act for similar films to follow.
Rated PG for crude humor, language, action and smoking
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