March 4, 2011 by  

Rango


Rango

Johnny Depp voices the scaly, heroic title character in "Rango."

Starring: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin
Directed by: Gore Verbinski (“Pirates of the Caribbean”)
Written by: John Logan (“Gladiator”)

Industrial Light and Magic sure knows how to make a great first impression. “Rango,” the first-ever animated feature created by the George Lucas company, is an impressive adventure film set in the Old West featuring a scrawny pet chameleon as it’s courageous hero.

When Rango (Johnny Depp), an aspiring thespian, strolls into the small town of Dirt after landing in the desert, he is given the chance to start on a clean slate and become whoever he wants in his new surroundings. No one in Dirt knows who he is, so he conjures up a few lies and jumps into character as a mysterious gunslinger who isn’t afraid of anything the big, bad desert has to offer, including the villainous Rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy).

Reminiscent of the storyline in the 1986 comedy “The Three Amigos,” the towns people, made up of some bizarre looking creatures, accept Rango into their dried-up community and make him sheriff when he accidentally kills a terrorizing hawk. As sheriff, it’s now up to Rango to somehow bring water to the thirsty people of Dirt before more of them pack up and take off in search of the one thing they need to survive the desert heat.

As an animated spaghetti Western, “Rango” takes its original narrative and sets it on a dark and dangerous path most cartoons would never tread. Leave it to director Gore Verbinski, who teamed up with Depp in the first two “Pirates” movies, to find inspiration from Western classics like those from director Sergio Leone. Along with exquisite imagery and witty dialogue from the title character, “Rango” is an imaginative and sort of hallucinatory tribute (see if you can spot the “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” reference) to a genre most kids aren’t exposed to nearly enough. With a lizard as the lead, this is as kid-friendly as it’s going to get.

Grade: B+

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