Rango may not be incredible, or a masterpiece, but in my opinion, it is far, FAR from being one of the worst animated films ever made. From a visual standpoint alone it is head and shoulders above most animated fare.
It’s not very often that Chris and I differ in opinion on films, and certainly not so disparately as we do here. Rango may not be incredible, or a masterpiece, but in my opinion, it is far, FAR from being one of the worst animated films ever made. From a visual standpoint alone it is head and shoulders above most animated fare. So, I thought I’d throw my two cents into the ring just so you had another perspective on Rango. I figure either one of us is crazy, or we just have differing perspectives on this one. Unless you want to see Chris and I in a grudge match battle royale thing. I see a future podcast in there somewhere.
Ah, Rango, the lonely chameleon yearning to be an actor. Well, yearning to be SOMEBODY, anyway. After a rather beautiful cinematic expulsion from the back of his owner’s car on a desert highway, he goes from stranded, to trekking – across the bleak, hot, sands of the American West. He finds himself in Dirt, a tiny Old West sort of town with all the characters that implies. Rango gives himself that name while weaving a very untrue picture of himself to these townfolk who are looking for a hero. Their town is plagued by a water shortage and could use a little hope.
As Rango tells himself, “I can be whoever I want.” And Sheriff Rango is born. For a lizard that’s tired of blending in, what better way than that to really stand out? And here we have the “lonely misfit tries to be something he’s not to save the town” bit. Sure, we’ve seen it before, we’ve seen this kind of transformation before, too, as Rango eventually becomes the very thing he pretended to be. It’s not terribly original, but the characters are odd, refreshingly weird and beautiful to look at even though they aren’t cute at all. Nope, not really one cute character in the bunch. But I love them all the same. Sorry. I like weird. A lot. Which is good, I guess, because Rango doesn’t really have the strong heart string-pulling like Toy Story 3 or How To Train Your Dragon. Oh, I really liked all the characters, but since they’re all kinda ugly and well, like a bunch of prospectors in the Old West films, I can see the challenge of falling in love with them.
But that’s another thing I love about Rango. There are countless references to numerous old westerns, and other films as well. Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns get the most attention, most of which starred Clint Eastwood. There were so many references that I couldn’t even name most of them. I had to look some of them up. I only looked and thought, “who does that character remind me of?”. Any one that loves westerns will likely do the same. Look for some Chinatown references, too. Ok, most kids won’t get any of that stuff, but I enjoyed it. And like the old westerns, there is a body count, which will be something to think about with the young kids. I actually see this as more of a PG-13 movie.
Ok, other things that need to be tweeked are the fact that even though these creatures have some obvious awareness of humans in the real world, they seem to have little outfits and tiny guns. Even though it’s cool that in the background of one scene you see that the town post office is actually a big human size mailbox, it doesn’t really jive with the reality they have already placed us in. Either put it in reality, or make it a fantasy world. It’s not deal-breaking to me, but it’s clearly something that should have been addressed. Also, all the animals are about the same size. There are prairie dogs, rabbits, moles, foxes and owls, and they’re all the same size. Again, not egregious, but should have been attended to more logically. (I’ve managed to use the word “egregious” in two reviews this week. Woo hoo!) And among my faves, a funny nod to Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas.
Most notably, this movie is gorgeous to look at. The details etch reality into the characters and environment, the incredible light and shadow, and the textures; everything is rather exquisite. And I can’t say enough about these characters. They are so wonderful and beautifully weird to experience. Amongst the most unique in any animated film. Yeah, I said it.
And the voice work of everyone involved is spot on. You may not even recognize the actor’s voice, but they create fun, true characterizations – and caricatures, of these classic western personalities.
Rango is admittedly not your standard animated fare. It’s quirky, very different, and not any kind of cute and cuddly. Could Rango have been funnier? Sure. Could it have used a rewrite? Sure. But as it is, it’s a fun, visually engaging film that I think most certainly deserves a look. With a rewrite it definitely would elevate this to amazing. But I’m going with a solid 3 kittenhands, no matter what Chris says. Frankly, I’m surprised he hated it so much. I think it’s just because he doesn’t like director Gore Verbinski. And who wouldn’t if all we had to judge him on was the two Pirates sequels? See? We don’t ALWAYS think that same around here. 🙂
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, asking you to investigate this one yourself. I think you’ll find something to enjoy about it. So there. …and if you think I’m wrong, well, that’s opinion for ya, all subjective and stuff.