Friday, March 4, 2011

Movie Review: Rango

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Gore Verbinski is back with Johnny Depp. They worked together on the three live action Pirates of the Caribbean movies and now they team together for the computer animated Rango. Depp provides the voice for the main character, a chameleon. Verbinski wears multiple hats including director, producer, writer AND voice talent. From the pirate genre to the western. Dusty main street, high noon show down and the rolling blowing tumble weed going across the screen set the stereotypical western scene after a slight detour from reality. The whole 107 minute movie was a nice little departure from reality!

Rango poster by coconut wireless
As Rango, Depp with the voice and the animated actions reminded me of the Don Knotts movies, specifically The Ghost and Mr Chicken although not quite as high strung. A chameleon who wants to be more than he is, just as Luther Heggs wanted to be more than he was. Chameleons by nature want to blend into their surroundings and here he is wearing a bright red aloha shirt with a vibrant yellow hibiscus print. The result, he sticks out like a sore thumb!

Right from the start, the visuals are detailed and eye popping. The little pits and bumps of chameleon skin, smooth plastic, water fluidity, desert dirt and cacti pins are rendered with great details. Our story tellers are a mariachi band of owls playing the trumpet, accordion, guitar and violin. The visuals of the birds, the instruments, their colors and the outfits make the cuts to their narration a joy to watch.

Once our protagonist heads into the desert town of Dirt, yah, that's right the name is Dirt, not a euphemism meaning unclean, broken down and not worth much the eclectic collection of towns folk spy through their building doors and windows the stranger that has rolled into town. As we meet rabbits, moles, horny toads, gila monsters, desert spiny lizards, hawks, bats, tortoises, rattle snakes and coyotes, we see details of both the animal and the detail that make them unique like eye colors, hair textures, skin lesions and clothes that bring the character to life and give them personalities.

When the stranger arrives in town he bellies up to the saloon bar. Through a series of unintended actions and some pretty bold stories that get rid of the bad guys who have been pestering the simple town folk of Dirt, our now hero is asked his name. He declares it is Rango and becomes the new sheriff in town. But something is unclean in Dirt and it's more than just the main street. Can the new law man clean up the town when the water supply is drying up?

There weren't many people in the theater with me, maybe twenty for a noon time matinee showing but that didn't stop the space from being filled with laughter. All throughout there were some good laughs generated both by visual jokes and funny dialogue. The movie is rated PG for rude humor, language, action and smoking. There were a couple of small children in the theater and the scene with Rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy) for them was a little too intense causing them to cry. Here's a giant snake with giant fangs dripping with venom moving quickly shooting with a Gatling gun of sorts on his tail, you can understand why they might have gotten slightly frightened.

The one point of the movie that I did catch as an error, sort of was Rango's eyes. His head was basically a Jackson Chameleon's head set on a skinny neck. Their eyes are orbital eyes meaning that they work independently of each other. One eye can be looking forward and the other backward or one up and the other down. His eyes were too human. They would both look in the same direction at the same time, which after owning a Jackson, having the eyes work together felt wrong. But, given the scope of the entire movie, that was a minor point.

I plan to go back and see it again using my free movie coupon. It was fun to watch and listen too and filled with a lot of visual detail which I'm sure I missed more than I caught.

The Movie Monkey

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