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August 2011

Rango

voice cast: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Ned Beatty, Bill Nighy, and Timothy Olyphant

director: Gore Verbinski

107 minutes (PG) 2010
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Paramount DVD Region 2

RATING: 8/10
review by J.C. Hartley

Rango

Weirdly wonderful 'emotion-capture' animation from the director of Pirates Of The Caribbean; Rango seems more for cineastes than the usual outing from say Pixar, despite the latter's own liberal use of movie references. Fans of the western can gorge to their hearts' content as the film tips its Stetson to some of the greats from the past.

The initially unnamed hero, a pet chameleon (Johnny Depp), is being transported across the desert in its tank on the back of a vehicle, enjoying some heroic role-playing with his 'friends', a headless mannequin, a dead water beetle and a toy wind-up fish. When the transport lurches to avoid an accident, actually running over Alfred Molina's armadillo as it turns out, the tank is shaken free and the chameleon sails out across the freeway colliding at one point with Dr Gonzo's windshield 'there's another one!' obviously this is lizard country.

The armadillo, the aptly named Roadkill, is seeking the Spirit of the West and gives the chameleon some quasi-mystical advice about getting to the 'other side' before directing him across the Mojave Desert to the town of Dirt. Attacked by a hawk, with a silver beak like Tim Strawn in Cat Ballou, the chameleon is eventually picked up by desert iguana Beans (Isla Fisher) and given a lift to Dirt. In a bar, the chameleon realises he can be whoever he wants to be (he's a chameleon, stupid) and adopts the name of Rango, from the west, who killed those Jenkins boys with one bullet, all seven of them (although the seventh admittedly died of infection). After a run-in with Ray Winstone's gila monster, and the hawk again - resulting in the bird's death, with a scene reminiscent of the townsfolk gathered around the body of Liberty Valance, Rango finds himself adopted as the town sheriff.

In a town filled with grotesques, the mayor is a tortoise played by Ned Beatty in that down-home lovable style he brings to the character of Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear in Toy Story 3. The actual character is John Huston's Noah Cross from Polanski's Chinatown, and the plot of Rango is a similar water wars theme, with Dirt's supply being diverted to irrigate the desert for the building of a Vegas-like city. Run out of town by the gunslinger Rattlesnake Jake, played by Bill Nighy channelling Lee Marvin, Rango meets the Spirit of the West - Timothy Olyphant doing a fine Clint Eastwood impression, complete with a metal detector and a golf trolley full of Oscars. Inspired by the encounter, Rango returns to Dirt for a final showdown.

With Carlos Castaneda like desert hallucinations, and film references taking in the Dollars films, Cat Ballou, The Shakiest Gun In The West, Support Your Local Sheriff, Once Upon A Time in the West, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Chinatown, Apocalypse Now, and others, Rango is a treat for western fans, very funny, and with a unique look. The owl chorus gets to be a pain in the arse by the end, though.

The DVD extras include an extended version, deleted scenes, an alternate ending, and a director's commentary track.



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