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JohnnyDeppReads - a place to discuss the news, books, plays, projects and materials relating to the works and interests of multi media artist Johnny Depp.
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Gore Verbinski’s homage to spaghetti westerns is realised through a surrealist anthropomorphic animation lens. Johnny Depp voices the titular hero, a chameleon with an identity crisis who during a car accident is left stranded in the Mojave desert and forced to make his own way in the world.
Although starting off with a contemporary setting an anachronistic movie unfolds as the lonely lizard befriends the townsfolk of Dirt with tall tales of daring-do. They’re an easily impressed bunch, so much so, they make him sheriff. Bad idea.
Director Verbinski and screenwriter John Logan fashion an occasionally dark story despite it being a bright and fun sort of film with talking animals and insects. It does have a ‘doped up’ vibe evident in several dream sequences and the general strangeness of the premise. Seeing lizards, owls and shrews riding on top of chickens is barking mad!
The older viewer will get all the references to John Ford, Sergio Leone, Clint Eastwood, Apocalypse Now, Star Wars and Chinatown. Indeed, part of the narrative features a scheming villain trying to control the water supply and there’s a Noah Cross-like villain who sounds a lot like John Huston. In fact it’s voiced by Ned Beatty, who featured as the baddie Lotso in Toy Story 3. Even the film’s title sounds like a play on the classic spaghetti western ‘Django’.
The cinematography, production design and animation is excellent. It could easily have been an indulgent mess but Verbinski gets the tone just about right. Even the end credits are well done. Depp does his comedy shtick routine which audiences lapped up in the Pirates movies but Rango is more Hunter S. Thompson-like than Captain Jack.
Rango at various times is a liar, a coward and a cheat (perfect spaghetti western material) but steps up to the plate in the end. Yes, the character undergoes a narrative arc inspired by a quest for identity. The chameleon is a friendless sort with dreams of becoming an actor.
Hans Zimmers’ Ennio Morricone pastiche score and mood pieces are genuinely thrilling and we’re even treated to a sort of bluegrass version of Ride of the Valkyries. Rango is smart, funny, inventive ( as mentioned, the posse ride chickens instead of horses and there’s a great aerial battle featuring bats) and most of all it’s entertaining.
A fine voice cast is assembled but this is Depp’s show. Isla Fisher, Harry Dean Stanton, Bill Nighy, Alfred Molina, Abigail Breslin and Timothy Olyphant all do well with what they have.
One senses an even darker prospect in Rango but since a truly adult version would never make as much money as one aimed at everybody, it’s easy to see why Verbinski choice the route he did.
So Rango is a film with wide appeal working both for the kids who’ll laugh at Rango and his comedy foibles and the adults will dig the surrealist dreamlike atmosphere and movie references. Highly recommended.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
This post has been edited by Karen on Mar 1 2011, 09:51 PM
Rango Review Posted by Lisa Giles-Keddie on February 28, 2011 · View Comments
Pirates of the Caribbean colleagues, director Gore Verbinski and actor Johnny Depp are the headliners on the poster for this new animation but in all honesty, you really wouldn’t recognise Depp’s vocals, were you not in the know. Depp is like a voice chameleon himself as the optimistic lizard lead, Rango, the latest bestial hero sent to capture our hearts.
Emotions aside, what instantly sets this animation apart is the striking, near photo-realistic quality to the production. Another added bonus is 3D glasses are not included, which comes as a welcome relief, and merely demonstrates that the right story and a little imagination ought to go to determine a film’s marketability – not the medium.
Rango is a domestic pet and aspiring thespian in a loud Hawaiian shirt (not sure why?) that crash-lands in a desert. Naturally, to get us on his side from the start, Rango’s like a ‘lizard out of water’ and adorably scatty and accident-prone. After a run-in with the local flying terror, an overly determined hawk, Rango walks into an animal-run, Western-style town called Dirt, where the local currency is water. After telling the colourful locals a few porkies about his so-called heroics, Rango is made the local sheriff, and when the water in the bank goes missing, he and others must ride out to track its whereabouts. But there are other flies in the ointment and dark secrets to be uncovered, before the townsfolk finally get a drop to drink. Plus Rango must deal with his growing feelings for the feisty and sporadically dumbstruck female lizard called Beans (Isla Fisher).
Rango is similar to a coming-of-age animal story that pokes fun at the formulaic nature of other animations that deliver the usual, tired cross-country adventure to find salvation and purpose – complete with its own serenading band of gringo owls. It is, perhaps, one of the first ‘animal-animated Westerns’ for all ages. But this is where it may not translate so well for a younger audience. As with the Western genre, Rango has a lot of ‘breathing space’ to it to capture the mood. However, the youngsters at the screening were getting noticeable restless, as the wisecracking and conversation lulls began to wear thin for their attention spans.
There are also some incredibly frightening sequences, and obvious references to ‘killing someone’ and death, which certainly make it PG, and set it apart from the U-rated films like Toy Story 3, where any sinister intentions are diluted. And those fearful of snakes, especially Nagini in Harry Potter, are being forewarned: Enhanced by the impressive photo-realism, Rattlesnake Jake (voiced by Bill Nighy) is more strikingly terrifying than any other animated serpent seen – the Potter basilisk aside, complete with a sudden coiling momentum that will make any grown-up shudder, let alone a small kid.
Indeed, Rango is probably more accurately described as an ‘adult-geared animation’ because of its Western make-up and its dry humour, reveling in some mild crudity, drinking (albeit ‘cactus juice’ that looks decidedly like moonshine) and smoking. Of course these are unavoidable and celebrated elements of cowboy films, and to be honest kids today are certainly better equipped to deal with such matters. But parents, be just warned. Oh, and make sure you’re equipped with enough fluids too last the 107 minutes, too, because Rango and its dusty imagery makes for thirsty work.
Some odd lip-synching with some of the characters aside, namely Beans, that actually gives her an even quirkier appeal, Rango is an energetic hoot, complete with its very own water-wishing hoedown. In fact, the blatant environmental shout-out about preserving our most precious asset – water – is, thankfully, never reiterated in the script for the ‘hard of thinking’, but trickles along nicely though the plot crevices. Rango turns out to be a master of adaptability and good will in the end, in fact, an educating and entertaining little ambassador for all with an addictive personality.
Rango: Film Review 1:00 PM 3/1/2011 by Todd McCarthy The Bottom Line Madly clever animated sagebrush saga has style and wit to burn. Johnny Depp voices the title character in a clever, witty movie from his "Pirates of the Caribbean" director, Gore Verbinski, that employs a technique the filmmakers call "emotion capture." The dusty cards of the Old West are reshuffled into a winning hand in Rango, a madly clever animated sagebrush saga with style and wit to burn. Reconfiguring the spaghetti Western into a fusilli con camaleonte, Gore Verbinski's surprising escape picture after years in the Caribbean is eye-poppingly visualized in a hyper-realistic style that at times borders on the surrealist. The verbal flights of fancy will often sail right over the heads of rugrats, as will the innumerable references to and twists on classic movies, making this one animated feature some adults might enjoy more than their kids. But the presence of Johnny Depp in the title role virtually assures muscular returns for this Paramount/Nickelodeon production.
Rango has the feel of a lark, of a film-lover's spree in a playpen equipped with some of the world's most expensive and expressive toys. Verbinski also enjoys the advantage of some highly gifted playmates, including technical wizards at Industrial Light + Magic (working on the firm's first animated feature), some of his Pirates effects cohorts and visual consultant Roger Deakins, who helps make the picture look as much shot as animated.
Unquestionably the first kids' toon to feature a homage to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas within the first 10 minutes, Rango pivots on the pilgrim's progress of a mild-mannered pet chameleon who finds greatness thrust upon him when he pretends to a past of accomplished gunslinging in the name of justice. In the process, he becomes sheriff of the dried-up desert town of Dirt, which is presided over by a fat, old tortoise who controls the ragged community's water supply, a situation that neatly allows the film to accommodate a child-friendly ecological theme while, for buffs, also summoning strong memories of Chinatown.
That Rango has something different in mind from the general run of animated features is clear in the preliminary philosophical banter between Rango (Depp), a bulging-eyed chameleon who's normally blue, and a Don Quixote-like armadillo (Alfred Molina) whose midsection has been flattened by a truck's wheel. The compositions, especially in this stretch, are imaginatively bizarre, as are Rango's free-associative musings, some of which go by so fast that it's hard to take them all in.
Ushered on his way through the arid landscapes by a mordant mariachi owl band, Rango encounters female lizard Beans (Isla Fisher), with whom he stumbles upon the aptly named town of Dirt, which is occupied by a wide range of vividly realized critters who share one thing in common: They're all thirsty and can't hold out much longer without water. The wheelchair-bound, seemingly genial old tortoise mayor, who is voiced by Ned Beatty and looks like him too, promises everyone that good times lie ahead and attempts to co-opt Rango, who furthers his invented legend by killing a giant, metal-beaked hawk, by appointing him sheriff.
While some distracting sideline villainy triggers some busy chases and battles, the real bad guy is the mayor, who has been hoarding water in preparation for the day when he will have bought up all the surrounding land for cheap. His henchman is the giant Rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy), memorably equipped with a rapid-fire Gatling gun where his rattle normally would be. But before Rango faces his high noon with the serpent, he has an inspiring encounter with an iconic character called the Spirit of the West who bears an uncanny resemblance to an aged Man With No Name.
When filmmakers who have never before worked in animation jump into the deep end, the result could range from the freshly innovative to the downright clueless. In this case, it's happily the former that prevails. Screenwriter John Logan, working from a story cooked up with Verbinski and the latter's longtime illustrator and conceptual consultant James Ward Byrkit, stirs the pot of genre archetypes, conventions and cliches with a sharp eye for their amusing reusability while also writing flavorsome character dialogue.
For his part, the director has broken with convention by recording the vocal performances, not separately in the isolation of studio booths but with the actors working together on a prop-laden and partly dressed stage for 23 days, during which time their work was shot by HD cameras so that animators could later reference their facial expressions and bodily gestures for inspiration. There is evidence of this working more with some actors -- particularly Depp and Beatty -- than others, but the verbal exchanges do spark and flow in the manner of accomplished ensemble work; in the promotional materials, the filmmakers call the technique "emotion capture," as opposed to motion capture.
But most exceptional is the visual style, which makes even the best animated 3D look like a poor cousin. More than in any other animated work that comes to mind, meticulous attention has been paid to light and shadow, to gradations of color, to details of faces, costumes and props and to the framing of shots. Some of this is deliberately meant to ape the density of the compositions in certain classic Westerns and, even more, to those of Italian master Sergio Leone. Beyond this, it's arresting to behold the twists the filmmakers add, such as creating a Monument Valley-like backdrop but deliberately changing its color from reddish to a sandy yellow or reducing the town in spots to what could be called its skeleton.
Such imaginative leaps are perpetuated by Hans Zimmer's score, which reworks the sound of Ennio Morricone's celebrated scores for Leone in ways that are exciting, sometimes comic but never silly.
A few off-color dialogue exchanges are mildly surprising for a family-friendly, PG-rated film, and dropping an additional five minutes or so would have tightened the screws to its benefit.
This post has been edited by herestoyou on Mar 1 2011, 08:46 PM
"It is not the destination so much as the journey" ~Capt. Jack Sparrow
Member No.: 21
Joined: 26-January 07
MSN Review:**WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS***
'Rango': A Long, Strange, Ingenious Trip Glenn Kenny, Special to MSN Movies
Allow me to admit a prejudice: Any motion picture, animated or not, that can effectively reference "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" and a Henery Hawk-starring Looney Tune, and can space those references between a mere sixty seconds or so of one another, is gonna be more than all right with me. And so it was with "Rango," a fleet, quirky, computer-animated feature that I found ingenious, charming and almost entirely engaging.
The picture is the latest collaboration between director Gore Verbinski and actor Johnny Depp, who here voices the title character, a once-domesticated chameleon who finds himself stranded in a desert town of fellow anthropomorphized critters, a motley crew simulating an Old West setting. Verbinski's cartoon-loving sensibility (one of his earliest successes was with the animated croaking frogs for those Budweiser commercials) was not entirely subsumed by the box-office juggernaut that is the Bruckheimer/Disney-concocted "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, which is wherein Verbinski made his fortune, and Depp replenished his. By comparison to said juggernaut, "Rango" may be considered a passion project, labor-of-love type of deal. For all its accomplishment, it certainly plays that way a lot.
The movie, scripted by John Logan (who wrote, among other things, Scorsese's "The Aviator," and that director's next film, the also kid-oriented "Hugo Cabret") begins with Depp's initially nameless talking chameleon directing a play for inanimate objects in the safety of his own tanks. But a traffic mishap separates the little green fellow from his human protectors. Stranded on a scorching highway, he gets some advice from a half-flattened aardvark, telling him of the "Spirit of the West"; after which he finds the drought-ridden town of Dirt, where he finds a name, a potential romance (with a female lizard named Beans, voiced by Isla Fisher, whose defense mechanism of freezing when threatened deploys itself at all sorts of awkward times), and an identity and sense of mission after his braggadocio earns him the job of sheriff.
Dirt's consuming drought gives the story line its drive, and the adult film lovers watching will pretty quickly catch on that the plot is a reasonably overt lift from the classic "Chinatown": The Ned-Beatty-voiced mayor of Dirt, a wheelchair-bound turtle, is this picture's greedy Noah Cross (John Huston) stand-in. Of course, as this is a kid's picture, the "Chinatown" lift excludes the incest and near-nihilistic fatalism and all that. Instead, it provides a useful framework in which the picture can explore the questions of belief versus ostensible reality in what turns out to be a pretty unfussy way, all the while never stinting on laughs or exciting computer-generated depictions of various fantastic desert landscapes and creatures.
Whereas the relentless pop-culture winks and nods in any number of DreamWorks animated pictures seems to have been focus-grouped to overstimulated death, "Rango" wears the genuine and personal quirkiness of its makers on its sleeve, while at the same time being pretty relaxed about the whole thing. While the film's action set pieces are indeed exhilarating and ingenious, the picture's overall vibe has an almost uncannily relaxed feel to it. While Verbinski has a background in punk rock, and Depp has been known to base characters on Keith Richards and make records with the Butthole Surfers, there are certain aspects of "Rango" that have something like a ... well ... don't tell anybody ... but a friendly-to-Deadheads-and-children-of-Deadheads vibe. The title character's early and brief encounter with a real-life figure once embodied by Mr. Depp in a much-maligned film directed by Terry Gilliam only underscores what some might call the picture's stoner appeal.
No stoner myself, I can attest that it's kind of a pleasure and relief to see an animated picture that is, in its way, as smart and cool as anything produced by Pixar, but that doesn't feel obliged to provide really BIG EMOTIONAL MOMENTS the way that Pixar films tend to. Don't get me wrong, I loved "Up" and "Toy Story 3," but I have to admit they also traumatized me. Chortling along as "Rango" loped to its satisfying climax and wrap-up, detouring into animated-art-film territory along the way, even, was as pleasant a way to spend a Saturday morning away from home as I'd care to imagine.
Glenn Kenny is chief film critic for MSN Movies. He was the chief film critic for Premiere magazine from 1998 to 2007.
"It is not the destination so much as the journey" ~Capt. Jack Sparrow
Posted: Tue., Mar. 1, 2011, 10:00am PT New U.S. Release Rango (Animated) By PETER DEBRUGE
Johnny Depp voices the lead character in director Gore Verbinski's animated debut 'Rango.'
A Paramount release presented with Nickeloden Movies of a BlindWink/GK Films [roduction. Produced by Gore Verbinski, Graham King, John B. Carls. Executive producer, Tim Headington. Co-producers, Shari Hanson, Adam Cramer, David Shannon. Directed by Gore Verbinski. Screenplay, John Logan; story, Logan, Verbinski, James Ward Byrkit.
Voices: Rango - Johnny Depp Beans - Isla Fisher Priscilla - Abigail Breslin Mayor - Ned Beatty Roadkill - Alfred Molina Rattlesnake Jake - Bill Nighy Doc/Merrimack - Stephen Root Balthazar - Harry Dean Stanton Spirit of the West - Timothy Olyphant Bad Bill - Ray Winstone
Johnny Depp isn't the sort of star to blend in, so it's saying something that his turn as the world's most conspicuous chameleon in "Rango" is so full-bodied, you forget the actor and focus on the character. Depp is but one voice in the all-around impressive ensemble Gore Verbinski assembles for his astonishingly adult-skewing animated debut, a comedic riff on the classic Wild West formula that could, if viewed in the right light, just as easily serve as one long "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas"-style hallucination. With kid appeal aplenty, the eccentric yet aud-friendly result should rustle big business worldwide.
This stunning virgin foray into feature-length animation from Verbinski and the vfx miracle workers at Industrial Light & Magic (his primary collaborator on the "Pirates of the Caribbean" pics) looks and feels nothing like the toons that have come before. "Rango" boasts not only the most photoreal visuals this side of "Wall-E" but a refreshingly unique narrative sensibility to boot, starting with its Charlie Kaufman-worthy opening monologue and Greek chorus -- technically, a mariachi band of bright-eyed Mexican owls whose songs fit the score's playful marriage of Hans Zimmer bombast and Los Lobos energy.
Depp plays a zonk-eyed pet lizard traveling cross-country through the Mojave Desert when a freak accident leaves him stranded in the blistering sun. Far removed from his natural habitat, the green-skinned, Hawaiian shirt-wearing reptile finds it virtually impossible to camouflage himself in his new all-brown environment, choosing instead to pass for something he's not, a fearless gunfighter named Rango.
With no real-world experience but a near-inexhaustible supply of good luck, Rango looks exactly like what the naively optimistic denizens of Dirt need right now: a hero. Their old-timey desert outpost is beset by predators and ruled by a corrupt mayor (Ned Beatty, playing a less huggable villain than he did in "Toy Story 3"), who clearly has a hand in the mysterious drought making all their lives miserable. That much even younger auds should be able to follow, though John Logan's hilarious script is loaded with two-dollar dialogue and wonderfully baroque expressions sure to confound even a fair number of adults.
Live-action helmers have had mixed success making the transition to animation of late, but Verbinski brings real vision to the endeavor, conceiving a world that starts small -- contained within Rango's terrarium, in fact -- and gradually expands to accommodate nearly all of Monument Valley in a way auds can intuitively follow. Even more impressive than the world itself is the incredibly varied ensemble that populates it, a motley mix of reptiles and rodents in which no two are redundant, each memorably designed by Mark "Crash" McCreery and his team, then brought to life via a bull's-eye match of critter and character actor. Though the entire cast is terrific, standouts include Bill Nighy as venomous Rattlesnake Jake, Ray Winstone's menacing gila-monster henchman Bad Bill and Isla Fisher as Rango's long-lashed love interest, Beans.
Where "Rango" ultimately falters is in the uncomfortable juxtaposition of kid-friendly entertainment -- represented by unnecessarily bombastic fight scenes that feel out of place within Logan's more intellectually spirited screenplay -- and the savvier, self-reflexive humor clearly aimed at adults. The only major pop-culture references here are a cameo by a Hunter S. Thompson lookalike and an amusing run-in with a mystic Man With No Name-esque figure (voiced by Timothy Olyphant). Though most of the laugh-out-loud moments result from either witty wordplay or inspired physical comedy, even the fart jokes feel fresh by contrast with the delivery we've come to expect from toondom's more established players.
It's hard to call originality "Rango's" greatest asset when the story itself trades so heavily on established Western movie tropes, but the project clearly comes from a completely different place than any other American-made animated feature. That radical departure is reinforced by the look of the film, which is now the third toon to rely on Roger Deakins as a virtual cinematography consultant.
Considering ILM's incredible background in live-action vfx, it's no surprise the company brings a staggering level of realism to the lighting and textures throughout. The shocker is just how good their character animation work is: From the way Rango walks to the subtlest eye twitch, this quirky chameleon's screen presence is more plausible than even some of Depp's most beloved flesh-and-blood creations, raising the bar for other studios going forward.
While on the subject of eyes, Rango's peepers violate the prevailing wisdom that bigger is better, with scaly lids covering all but a tiny pinhole at their center, inviting us to consider the performance of the character's entire face rather than just his shiny irises. It should also be said that even projected in 2D, "Rango" makes better use of dimension than many stereoscopic toons.
(Deluxe color, widescreen); editor, Craig Wood; music, Hans Zimmer; production designer, Mark "Crash" McCreery; supervising art director, John Bell; art director, Aaron McBride; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS), Lee Orloff; sound designer, Peter Miller; supervising sound editors, Addison Teague, Miller; re-recording mixers, Paul Massey, Christopher Boyes; animation director, Hal Hickel; visual effects supervisors, Tim Alexander, John Knoll; feature animation, Industrial Light & Magic; casting, Denise Chamian. Reviewed at the Grove, Los Angeles, Feb. 28, 2011. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 105 MIN.
Member No.: 21
Joined: 26-January 07
Another positive---again, **SOME SPOILERS**
Rising to the occasion (and sea level) Rango Add Commenton March 01, 2011 by Pam Grady 4.5/5 rating 5.0/5 income
A tenderfoot wanders into a lawless town and becomes the unlikely savior of a fearful and beaten citizenry. That sounds like the log line for many a typical Western, but there is nothing typical about Rango, an animated family film starring Johnny Depp as a suburban chameleon, a fish who finds himself literally out of water when he becomes sheriff of an arid desert burg. Wonderfully animated, witty and wildly imaginative, it is full of jokes that will fly over kids' heads (or even their parents if they aren't dedicated film buffs) but should still hold their attention with its cast of colorful characters. This reteaming of Depp with his Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski looks like a lock to emerge as the first genuine blockbuster of 2011.
A sheltered reptile whose everyday companions are a windup fish and a broken doll, Rango (Depp) is clearly out of his depth when an accident leaves him stranded in the Mojave Desert. But when he wanders into a town called Dirt, he finds creatures worse off than himself. The burg's currency is water and it's nearly gone, according town banker Mr. Merrimack (Stephen Root). Rango's new lizard friend Beans (Isla Fisher) is about to lose her farm. The town's last lawman is six feet under and lording over everyone in town is the mayor, an evil tortoise (Ned Beatty). Rango is in way over his head, but he is also a frustrated actor who lives by the motto, "Every story needs a hero." So when the mayor wants to make him sheriff, he is only too willing to step into a role for which he is monumentally unsuited.
The movie references fly thick and fast in this smart comedy. Western fans in particular will have a field day sorting them out, but there are other allusions, too, nods from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to Chinatown. But movie in-jokes are not the only things going on here. There is humor to be found from a number of sources, from elements commonplace in a chameleon's tank to the Greek chorus of mariachi owls that accompany the hero on his journey and continually prophesize his death to Rango's armadillo pal Roadkill (Alfred Molina); like so many of those creatures one sees along desert highways, the first time Roadkill is spotted he's lying in the middle of the road.
That view of an armadillo with a tire track dissecting his middle is only one example of the care given to Rango's visuals. There is a lot of humor in the imagery with characters like Roadkill or the army of bats equipped with Gatling guns, but then there are the denizens of Dirt. Appropriate for such an arid place, most of them look a little desiccated. These are not the cute animals of the average kiddie movie. These are downright ugly creatures like the wizened, mole-like Balthazar (Harry Dean Stanton) or the villainous Rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy); even the rabbit like Doc (Stephen Root again) is not a fluffy, cuddly thing. Missing an ear, he's a bunny with a hard-knock life.
Cinematographer Roger Deakins served as visual consultant on Rango, as he did on Wall-E and How to Train Your Dragon, and his input shows. From the water effects to the way the hot sun shimmers on the horizon, to the look of the fur on the animals, this is one spectacular-looking movie. There is a sense of texture and a play of light and shadow that is absolutely gorgeous and so rich that its 2D images suggest 3D.
Verbinski went against normal practice in recording his audio, not having each actor record in isolation, but instead bringing them together to perform. Perhaps that accounts for the playfulness evident in most of the performances. Or maybe the actors just realized they were onto something special. The entire cast is charming, but especially Depp as the little lizard with big dreams who gets to be the star he's always wanted to be in this fresh and funny movie.
By Anton Bitel"Who am I?", wonders a pet chameleon, surveying the world rushing past his glass case as he is transported along a Nevada freeway. "I could be anyone."
This lizard with thespian aspirations is voiced by that most chameleonic of actors, Johnny Depp, and shows a similar range. When we first meet him in his display box, he contemplates play-acting a scenario in which he is a 'sea captain' (like Depp's Jack Sparrow) - and later he will have a desert vision modelled closely on Captain Jack's hallucinatory underworld experiences in Gore Verbinski's previous film, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007).
Yet the chameleon also has the crazy eyes and Hawaiian shirt of Depp's Hunter S. Thompson from Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas (1998) - and will soon briefly come face-to-face (or at least face-to-windscreen) with the 'real' Thompson. "I knew it!" Thompson will exclaim - after all, he was always seeing lizards in Terry Gilliam's film.
So while Rango may eventually target the spaghetti western as its genre of choice, and our herpetological hero-in-the-making may soon find himself 'blending in' as a vainglorious gun-slinger in the dried-out town of Dirt, there is the sense that any genre could fit, just so long as he is prepared for once to commit to seeing his story through to its end.
Even a raid on a wagon in a canyon - a sequence that ought to be pure oater cliché - is played out by a menagerie of desert critters while somehow overtly referencing movies as generically wide-ranging as Apocalypse Now (1979), Star Wars (1977), Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981) and Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981). In this cowboy flick, anything goes - and it tends to go fast, furious and funny.
The western may privilege Men with No Name, but 'Rango' himself, true to his film's postmodern sensibilities, is a man with too many names (he is even "one of the few men to have a maiden name") - and it is telling that when, near the end, he has a mystical encounter with the original Man With No Name, Clint Eastwood's drawling figure (voiced by Timothy Olyphant) should not be riding a saddled horse, but rather a golf buggy festooned with his many Academy Awards. Here everything is an act, and Verbinski is happy to wear whatever shoe matches the performance - especially in the interests of raising a laugh.
Rango plays out like a full-length version of the surreal scene in Alejandro Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain (1973) where the Conquest of Mexico is re-enacted on a scale model by costumed chameleons and toads. In their first animated feature, VFX house Industrial Light & Magic offer a photorealistic (yet highly mannered) microcosm of our own era, as 'Rango' stands off against the forces of property foreclosure, resource depletion and corrupt exploitation, and in so doing, lives up to his own myth - complete with a band of mariachi owls to sing with bleak relish of his evolutionary destiny ("the lizard - he's going to die").
A fish out of water in a town out of water, our swivel-eyed protagonist will come to fit in precisely by improvising and adapting to his hostile new environment without ever sacrificing his peculiar idiosyncrasies. If he, like his film, is an incongruous amalgam of clashing types and conventions, always clad in artifice, then he is also a man (or at least a reptile) for our times, creating his own reality from the flotsam and jetsam of culture.
"We each see what we want to see," as the accident-prone armadillo Roadkill (Alfred Molina) puts it. "Beautiful isn't it?" It is - and thigh-slappingly hilarious to boot, as its state-of-the-art animation collides with postmodern pastiche on a busy road along which wayside legend will always count for more than supposed progress.
Rango is riotously funny, quirkily beautiful, and smart as a whip - although perhaps, despite all the animated animal antics, its anything-goes ironies will be best appreciated by an older audience.
"It is not the destination so much as the journey" ~Capt. Jack Sparrow
Member No.: 21
Joined: 26-January 07
You're welcome Karen! There are many positive ones with a few negative thrown in, too. However, I prefer to focus on the positive
From ABC news, another good one with MANY SPOILERS:
Review: Lizards and Light Dance in 'Rango' Movie review: Depp, Verbinski ride again in the witty Western 'Rango' The Associated Press Post a Comment By JAKE COYLE AP Entertainment Writer March 1, 2011 (AP)
It was somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, where "the drugs began to take hold" in the Johnny Depp adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."
In this film publicity image released by Paramount Pictures, Rango, voiced by Johnny Depp, is shown in a scene from the animated feature, "Rango." (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, Industrial Light & Magic)In the manic, animated "Rango," which stars Depp as a chameleon, our coordinates are similar, and the hallucinogens are well under way. It's as though the drug-conjured lizards of "Fear and Loathing" have been contracted by Hollywood and tasked to make a Western.
Go West, young reptile.
But "Rango" proceeds from a presumably more sober place: the mind of director Gore Verbinski, who helmed the "Pirates of the Caribbean" trilogy. It's his first animated film, but if you recall Depp's Jack Sparrow, you'll note that Verbinski is well acquainted with cartoon. "Rango" is also a first animated feature for the effects house Industrial Light & Magic.
Together, they've created perhaps the most cinematic animated film since Pixar's "Ratatouille." As a slapstick comedy, it doesn't have the emotion resonance of a Pixar film, but it's a visually stunning, endlessly inventive, completely madcap Western, made with obvious love for the genre.
"Rango" begins as movies should: with a Mariachi band of musical owls. Our narrators, they introduce the film and our hero, an early hint at the self-consciousness pervading the wink-filled "Rango."
We find our chameleon protagonist in full theatrical flight, turning his pet lizard tank into a film set, with supporting roles played by an inanimate fish toy and a palm tree: "Acting is reacting," he knowingly professes to no one.
With a wide, flat Don Rickles mouth and two giant bowl-shaped eyes, Rango, clad in a red Hawaiian shirt, doesn't look like your normal animated hero. We quickly learn that he's a precocious young actor whose life cooped up as a pet has habituated his imagination to flights of fancy. He is badly in need of an audience.
Rango is bounced out of his cage by a bump in the road and — in a beautifully done scene — tossed from the back seat of his unseen owners onto a Mojave Desert road, where he comes careening to a stop atop a broken piece of glass. Spurred by an "enlightenment"-seeking armadillo (Alfred Molina), he sets out on a journey of self-discovery that includes momentarily landing on the windshield of the "Fear and Loathing" convertible, with Depp's former character inside.
Rango winds up in the old, rickety desert town of Dirt. Despite a resume that includes, as he claims, two one-acts and a working musical, Rango — less a chameleon of color than of character — dons the role of gunslinger so that he might impress the townspeople.
Inside a saloon, he claims with great bravado that he comes from the West, "beyond the sunset," and vanquished seven with a single bullet. Rango's dialogue, from John Logan's witty screenplay, is thoroughly Deppian in its verbosity. Rango boasts of eating men like the menacing Gila monster Bad Bill (Ray Winstone) for breakfast, adding: "Then we braise him in clarified butter."
Rango is convincing enough that he's made sheriff of Dirt. It's a town teaming with ragged curiosities: a drunk rabbit (Stephen Root), a slinky fox (Claudia Black), a wide-eyed and cynical mouse (Abigail Breslin), the prairie dog Balthazar (Harry Dean Stanton). There's also the potential love interest lizard named Beans (Isla Fisher).
Dirt's problem is water. Its dwindling supply is kept in a large jug in a bank's vault. The town's tortoise mayor (Ned Beatty) tells Rango: "You control the water, you control the desert."
With folksy villainy and a creaky wheelchair, the mayor is a perfect stand-in for John Huston's Noah Cross of "Chinatown." That film supplies the frame for much of "Rango," though only to a point. Incest is tabled and no nosey fellows get their nostrils sliced, but solving the mystery of the missing water is Rango's mission.
He seems no better equipped than Jake Gittes to solve what he deems Dirt's "aquatic conundrum." (His advice to one little creature: "Burn everything but Shakespeare.") But Rango is a method actor, and he eventually becomes the part.
As smart as "Rango" is, what most stands out is its simulation of light. With the great cinematographer Roger Deakins serving as a visual consultant and visual effects headed by Mark McCreery, the refraction of light in "Rango" may be the pinnacle yet in animation.
Shadows fall through the saloon — with glowing amber glasses of whiskey (or "cactus juice") — so authentically designed that one swears the room full of gun-totting varmints is real. Wisps of dust swirl across the road's cracked pavement.
Like Wes Anderson's entry to animation, "Fantastic Mr. Fox," Verbinski has brought live-action tools to an animated medium. The results in "Rango" are so lively that the post-movie conversation will go some time before any moviegoer remembers that 3-D was (thankfully) omitted.
The movie's postmodernism could be considered too cloying, but it comes off charming, especially because it pulls from such great sources. The Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone are joyfully referenced, complete with a cameo from the Man With No Name (voiced by Timothy Olyphant, not Clint Eastwood). Hans Zimmer's score is a playful ode to those of Ennio Morricone.
Perhaps a new classification has been born: the "SpaghettiOs Western."
"Rango," a Paramount Pictures release, is rated PG for rude humor, language, action and smoking. Running time: 107 minutes. Three stars out of four.
"It is not the destination so much as the journey" ~Capt. Jack Sparrow
REVIEW: RANGO continues my theory that most successful CGI animated films may pass themselves off as kiddie fare, but are really just as much for their parents. It’s directed by Gore Verbinski, who, long before he directed the initial PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN trilogy, started his career with a kids film, one of DreamWorks' first features, MOUSE HUNT.
RANGO probably owes much more to that smaller scaled film that any of the PIRATES installments, with this getting back to the manic, darkly comedic edge Verbinski showed earlier in his career. Despite the fact that this is large budgeted kiddie flick, it feels like Verbinski was able to imbue this with more of his own personality and style than anything he’s done in years, giving RANGO a very unique vibe. At times, RANGO almost felt like what a Pixar movie might be like if it was made by the Coen Bros., with lots of eccentric animated characters (voiced by an eclectic supporting cast, including Harry Dean Stanton, Stephen Root, Alfred Molina, and Ray Winstone). I’d also wager that RANGO, more than any other animated flick I’ve seen in a long time, owes a lot of it’s success to the vocal stylings of its leading man.
Despite only featuring his voice, RANGO is a Johnny Depp flick through and through. This is obvious from the first second we lay our eyes on Rango, who’s decked out in a Hunter S. Thompson style Hawaiian shirt, and featuring the kind of bug eyes good ol’ Hunter (as played by Depp in FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS) saw on casino dwellers while on a psychedelic ether binge. In fact, Depp as Thompson, even gets a quick cameo in the film, which gave the hipper parents in the audience I saw this with the biggest laugh of the film.
To the parents reading this, rest assured, RANGO is not a freaky CGI animated acid trip. Once Rango gets to Dirt, it actually settles down into quite a nice little parable about courage, and is actually rather sweet. My only misgiving about recommending this for kids is that it’s a tad atmospheric, and slowly paced (at first) for a kiddie flick, and it could possibly bore younger children. Older children, and parents will love it though.
Western fans will get a special kick out of RANGO, with Hans Zimmer’s score being very reminiscent of early Ennio Morricone. Of course, the stranger wandering into a town controlled by villains is a classic western plot device, done by everyone from Alan Ladd, to John Wayne, to Clint Eastwood. Speaking of Eastwood, “The Man With No Name” character even has a nifty little cameo, although, in a bit of a cheat, the voice isn’t supplied by Clint, but rather Timothy Olyphant- who nevertheless does a credible Eastwood circa A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS impersonation.
I really enjoyed RANGO, and for me that’s saying a lot, as I tend to be easily dismissive of a lot of CGI animated films, unless they happen to be from Pixar. While this isn’t exactly up to that level, it’s still pretty darn good, and a terrific Saturday matinee for pretty much anyone.
"It is not the destination so much as the journey" ~Capt. Jack Sparrow
Member No.: 21
Joined: 26-January 07
MovieWeb Review--another good one
I'll post this bit about Johnny from the review that's not a spoiler, but very complimnetary to Johnny:
Depp has made a career of taking on strange and odd roles but playing a chameleon is certainly a first for the actor and he pulls it off well. Depp posses an offbeat comedic timing that is perfectly applied here and he gives a commanding performance that helps carry the film and makes the story believable. He breathes life into this character and Rango comes alive completely, practically jumping of the screen in some scenes.
Rango: Review By Jami Philbrick 1Mar 1st, 2011 by Jami Philbrick "A surreal and beautifully animated film that may confuse its audience as much as it entertains them but in the end is a satisfying yet bizarre motion picture." In "Rango," Oscar nominated actor Johnny Depp once again teams up with his "Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse of The Black Pearl" director Gore Verbinski and the result is a wildly imaginative computer animated Western that would have made the late Hunter S. Thompson proud. In fact, Thompson's spirit is felt throughout the entire film and the famous author and close friend of Depp's even makes an appearance in the film. In fact, Depp, who portrayed Thompson in "Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas," reprises his role in a cameo where Thompson briefly meets Rango in a scene that brings two of Depp's on-screen personas together for the first time. In many ways I think Rango was loosely based on Thompson, which makes sense considering Depp's reputation for drawing inspiration for his characters from people he knows, such as Keith Richards who was the inspiration for the Capt. Jack Sparrow role. The character resembles Thompson in many ways including his laid back attitude and his wardrobe which consists of loud hawaian shirts. The film itself seems like something the late Gonzo journalist would have written if he had tried to pen an animated movie. It's strange, pcyhidelic and odd, yet fun and very appealing.
I do have to say that while the film is beautifully animated, it is not a children's film. There are many scary moments and I don't think it's appropriate for anyone under ten. That being said, the movie is really an animated western for adults. Most of the film feels like a strange acid trip but the movie works because it looks so good and the characters are well acted and well developed. Depp especially seems to be having fun in his role and he injects the character of Rango with just the right balance of charm and mischief to make the character come alive. The movie also has a powerful water conservation message that is not lost in the story. But what is really cool about the movie is that at its heart it is a Western. It plays to the classic Western beats that you would expect. Rango is the stranger from out of town that comes in to save the day from the no-good cowboys who have taken over. It's kind of like an animated "High Noon" or "Unforgiven" only with desert creatures as the main characters. It's kind of strange but kind of cool at the same time.
The film begins by giving us a glimpse into the cushy life of our main character, Rango, a pet chameleon that lives in a terrarium. Rango lives a lonely existence in his cage but has an active imagination and fancies himself a hero. While his family is moving to Las Vegas, Rango's cage falls from the car and leaves Rango fending for himself in the dangerous desert. Eventually he stumbles upon a town called Dirt. Various desert creatures populate the town that all end up representing different Western archetypes. Since Rango has always considered him self a hero, he takes on the role of lawman and accepts a job as the town's sheriff. Unfortunately, things are not as they seem and the town of Dirt doesn't have a very good track record when it comes to Sheriffs lasting long in the corrupt Western town. Eventually Rango comes face to face with the film's villains and must dig deep inside himself to find the courage to stand up to them. In the process, he gains the respect of the town, as well as himself, while solving the mystery of the town's missing water supply.
Depp has made a career of taking on strange and odd roles but playing a chameleon is certainly a first for the actor and he pulls it off well. Depp posses an offbeat comedic timing that is perfectly applied here and he gives a commanding performance that helps carry the film and makes the story believable. He breathes life into this character and Rango comes alive completely, practically jumping of the screen in some scenes. The rest of the voice cast was excellent as well including Isla Fisher ("Wedding Crashers"), who plays Rango's love interest, a desert iguana named Beans. Abigail Breslin ("Little Miss Sunshine"), Alfred Molina ("Spider-Man 2") and Bill Nighy ("The Constant Gardener") are also great in their roles. But the second great cameo in the film comes from a character Rango meets near the end simply referred to as "The Spirit Of The Old West." The character has a striking resemblance to Oscar winner Clint Eastwood and is perfectly performed by Timothy Olyphant (TV's "Justified"). Olyphant has the perfect grizzly voice to come close to embodying the famous filmmaker.
Director Gore Verbinski sets an epic tone and scope for the film that he pulls off for the most part. At times the movie's story gets lost in the brilliant animation and wonderfully developed characters. John Logan wrote the script and I'm afraid that it doesn't quite hold up at times. I do give Verbinski and Depp a lot of credit for attempting to make such a strange and surreal film and at times they pull it off but in other moments its possible to get lost in the film's complicated plot. Again, this is not a children's animated film, although kids probably won't hate it but they will be scared by some of the movie's more frightening moments. In the end, I think I may have enjoyed the idea of "Rango" more than the film itself but appreciate the "big swing" that the filmmakers have taken and would recommend people check out the film and decide for yourself. It's a complex movie, but it has great animation and fantastic characters. I just wish the story had held together a bit better. But if you are in the mood for something totally different ... than "Rango" may be the film for you.
"It is not the destination so much as the journey" ~Capt. Jack Sparrow
Lisa Schwarzbaum Lisa Schwarzbaum is a film critic for EW. EW's GRADE B- Details Release Date: Mar 04, 2011; Rated: PG; Length: 107 Minutes; Genre: Action/Adventure; With: Johnny Depp
More reviews about this film Powered by MRQE.com The lizard who lends his name to Rango does pretty well for himself. His accomplishments are even more impressive considering all the strikes against him in this simpatico if effortful computer-animated family comedy about the value of self-actualization and the appeal of American Westerns. For one thing, Rango — the chameleon, voiced by Johnny Depp — is involuntarily, magically launched from the 21st century into his new life in the 19th-century Old West as the result of a shattering road accident in the Mojave Desert at the beginning of the picture. (We can only assume the family in whose car the pet was traveling perished. Never mind, don't look, they're never spoken of.)
For another thing, Rango — the movie — takes a long time finding a story line to stick with. First the lizard, liberated from domestication by humans, gets a crash course in outdoor life skills. (In the desert, blend in!) He staggers into a dusty town called Dirt and decides to reinvent himself as a gunslinging hero. (In town, stand out!) After being rewarded for inadvertent acts of bravery as town sheriff, he decides that being a hero is too hard. Then he changes his mind and sticks to his, er, gun. He's fickle, he's a chameleon. So sue him.
Depp brings the same playful charm and love of make-believe swashbuckling that he showed in his Pirates of the Caribbean adventures, which were directed, as is Rango, by tumult-prone Gore Verbinski. Thanks to Depp's own chameleonlike performance and the camaraderie of the cast's voice-recording sessions run like live theater, the script has a lively, improvised feel. (The sardonic screenplay was written by Gladiator's John Logan and developed from a story by Logan, Verbinski, and James Ward Byrkit.)
The lizard's costars include Beans (Isla Fisher), a girl reptile with true grit; the mayor of Dirt (Ned Beatty), a tortoise who controls his town's dwindling water by taking his cues from John Huston's sinister Noah Cross in Chinatown; a philosophizing armadillo (Alfred Molina) with a lance borrowed from Don Quixote and a cartoon-Spanish accent borrowed from Antonio Banderas in Shrek; and the Spirit of the West (Timothy Olyphant), a man with no name who bears a close vocal and poncho-costumed resemblance to Clint Eastwood.
The biggest strike against Rango, though — for both the movie and the hero — is that the lizard is so damn ugly. As are his animated colleagues. And by ugly I mean remarkably, repellently, did this really test well with audiences? Jar Jar Binks ugly. The Geico gecko is a far, far more telegenic star than the asymmetrical, bulbous green creation whose face, with its hints of E.T. and Kermit the Frog DNA, fills so much of the screen so much of the time. Beans is worse: She's got the kind of you guys are useless (so I'd better do this myself) gumption characteristic of so many heroines in family-oriented animated projects these days — and she really does look like Jar Jar's reptilian cousin, crossbred with a strain of Avatar's Na'vi genetic code.
The warty, hairy, tongue-flicking animal cast is all the more distracting for taking away from the production's obviously loving, appealing attention to perspective and background detail. (Rango is the first full-scale animated feature generated by the redoubtable special-effects house of Industrial Light & Magic.) Care has gone into the re-creation of iconic shots from great American Westerns — Rango's climax is pure High Noon — and in the last act, the story does coalesce into the satisfying shape of a classic showdown, during which the hero no one thought would last a day in such a mean old town prevails, not only against external evil but also against his own weaknesses. Neither Rango the mash-up movie nor Rango the lizard is particularly lovable. But there's no denying the intrigue in its combination of the good, the bad, and the ugly. B–
Member No.: 21
Joined: 26-January 07
OK--just have to comment on EW review---the "ugliness" of the characters as she states adds to the film. Maybe she should see the film with an audience of kids because the group I was with were totally enthralled with these odd-looking reptiles. Does everything always have to be cute & cuddly? If it was, she would have complained about that....
Some good/bad in this one, but overall he recommends it:
Rango: Movie Review Mar 02, 2011 - By Mali Elfman
This week Johnny Depp and Gore Verbinski team up again for another wild ride — only this time they’re tackling an animated world with their latest creation Rango. This is one of those films that takes a number of wild risks along the way but succeeds in almost all of them. It’s safe to say that their was no lack of imagination or attention to detail that went into this film, despite its few problems…
The Players: Director: Gore Verbinski Screenplay: John Logan Story: John Logan, Gore Verbinski, James Ward Byrkit Actors: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy Animation Director: Hal T. Hickel Original Music by: Hans Zimmer The Plot: A very Johnny Depp like chameleon finds himself trapped in the desert and before he knows it he is playing the role of the unexpected hero of a nearby town giving him a new sense of purpose in live — the only problem is can he keep up the act long enough to save his fellow critters from bandits, corrupt politicians and more? Is playing the part enough? Or will he have to become it?
The Good: The Beginning: The film starts off with a band as ww are immediately thrown into Rango’s unique world. We’ve got ourselves some action, plenty of comedy, even some self-deprecation from the filmmakers, and then a metaphorical conundrum to get us pondering — success! After the first 20 minutes of this film I was sold, I’d seen enough to leave me satisfied, or so I thought… More on that later. Let’s concentrate on the good. The Look: It so nice to see an animation that’s like no other. Much in the way that Tim Burton broke boundaries with Nightmare Before Christmas, this film takes an equally large step but in a very different way. This film is dry, dirty, sometimes almost color-less, our lead character has tiny eyes instead of big round ones — honestly I’ve never seen an animation quite like this and it was so much fun to sit there and take it all in. It gives new life to this genre and shows us that not being perfect is sometimes the best thing you can do! Which conveniently goes quite well with the moral of the story. The References: Much in the way Quentin Tarantino references a number of movies he loves within his own, Gore squeezes in as many references as he can from Chinatown to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (turns out it wasn’t bats Depp was swatting it was his future lizard self!). The thing about Tarantino is that he’s one of the only directors that can reference a movie and yet still have it be his own thing — this film was very much pointing out other films, not quite incorporating them the way that Tarantino does BUT I have to say I love that those kind of references are being made in an animation that kids will see. The Little Moments: From the amazing Mariachi band to the way Rango’s eyes dart around and his broken neck, there are a number of small details in this film that make it worth seeing. There was so much time and effort put into all of these characters it’s hard not to love them. The Bad: The Length: The biggest problem of this film is its length. I’m not sure if Gore just LIKES lengthy films, but the runtime much like in his last Pirates film — the length just begins to weigh down everything you see in front of you and it begins to feel like you’re just moving from one set piece to another for now real reason… Too Much: At the end of the second act you realize that the mission that they’re on doesn’t actually push the story forward and it begins to feel like they’re just throwing everything into the fire. I guess it’s nice to have a big action sequence at that stage of the film, but when it doesn’t really the story forward and in fact, gives us a whole new obstacle to over-come, the story ends up taking away from the charm that made the film so great in the beginning.
Overall: Less is more in a film like this. The small moments, the intricate style choices, the texture of the clothing, the colors of the scenes, the well thought out one-liners, the characters development and the abstract metaphorical ideas are what make this an amazing film despite the fact that they story runs away with itself and doesn’t do justice to all the work put into this film.
This film begins by taking a huge risk and widely succeeds, but then regresses and becomes another action, adventure tale. If they just could have tightened up the story and been able to stick with the original concept, this film would have been one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen. Instead, it was good. Maybe this is because they felt it needed to “appeal to broader audiences” or maybe it’s what they meant to make.
But! I’ll take a film that touches on greatness over one that never tries to do so any day. So my recommendation — go for it. Rating: 7/10
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