By Dave Campbell | March 3, 2011
Director: Gore Verbinski
Writer: John Logan
Starring: (voice) Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone, Timothy Olyphant
The journey of Rango (Johnny Depp), follows a turn in the life of an extremely lonely, terrarium dwelling, pet chameleon. After dodging an armadillo in the road, Rango is thrown from the car of his human family and left alone on the road in the middle of the Mojave desert. Moments later Rango meets the armadillo that caused the accident who influences him to take a days walk into the desert to a town called Dirt. The town is a relic of the old west sheltered from modern day with some rough and scrappy animal inhabitants. Rango seizes the day by claiming to be a gun-slinging rough riding tough guy responsible for taking out baddies. Given his stature, the locals take him in as their last hope to save their town and the mayor deputizes Rango as Dirt’s new Sheriff. Rango is soon faced with the task of rescuing Dirt from a much larger scheme while redeeming himself in the process.
Aside from the fact that I didn’t care for the Pirates sequels or The Mexican that much, I’ve always wanted great success for director Gore Verbinski. Back in the day, Verbinski was an LA punk rocker after graduating from UCLA’s Film Dept., who played guitar in the band the Daredevils with Bad Religion alum and Epitaph Records owner, Brett Gurewitz (Mr. Brett). Given that connection, he was a music video director (Bad Religion: American Jesus, 21st Century (Digital Boy) – Monster Magnet: Negasonic Teenage Warhead – The Crystal Method: Born Too Slow – NOFX: S&M Airlines) before he ever stepped behind the camera to helm The Ring, Pirates of the Caribbean or The Weatherman. With Rango, Verbinski has added another variable to his very diverse catalog.
Sure everyone is a junkie for Pixar, but the graphic design and textures via ILM that are present in Rango make you feel as if you can reach out and feel the smooth skin of each reptile, stroke the puffy fur of each mammal while instantly becoming parched from the detail of each arid grain of desert sand. To say that this film has great visual detail is an understatement. Not since Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga‘Hoole, has there been this level of beautiful realism in a CG personification tale. The writing in Rango is also clever and full of humor and homages (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Man With No Name) for the adults.
Rango is quite original on the visually creative front and with it’s characters, but the plot is one that we’ve seen a hundred times over. New guy (usually a loser) comes to a small town and becomes an unlikely overnight folk hero by misrepresenting himself as something or someone that he is not. Guy then has to face up to his lies and either walk away with his tail between his legs, or step up and become the hero that the community around him needs. There’s nothing new about that, but it’s balanced by the way that the story is told and the interesting characters that live in it.