When the first Pirates of the Caribbean came out I read an interview with Johnny Depp and he said that he "wanted to do a movie his kids could watch for once." Seems like they've had quite the grip on him because he hasn't done many "adult" films since. Rango is by far his most childish, but since he put his trust in the hands of director Gore Verbinski (the Pirates films, The Ring) it still comes across very enjoyable for adults. Rango is a classic Western story that's been done and done again. The outsider comes to a new town, is mistaken for being braver than he is, pretends until real danger shows up, but in the end is actually as brave as he portrayed. Think of The Three Amigos but with only one Amigo and everyone is an animal. The cliche, uonoringal story is something that can be overlooked due to how original everything else is. This is a children's movie about talking animals that would only look more realistic if you used actual talking animals. I consider Verbinski a very talented director and was worried when I saw him doing an animated film fearing that his vision and signature look would get lost. Nope. Not one bit. Rango is every much a Gore Verbinski film as anything else he's done. Part of that is due to the animation being captured from the actual actors movements filming the scenes, just like the did for Avatar. Plus the decision to make the creatures dirty, wounded and jarringly realistic was risky and brilliant. That may prove to be too unnerving for some small kids - be warned. They are as far removed from the traditional Disney talking animals as I've ever seen. But that nod to realism works incredibly well for the film. The other aspect that makes the film so good is the choice of casting. The voice work of Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers), Abigail Bresslin (Zombieland), Ned Beatty (Toy Story 3), Bill Nighy (Pirates of the Caribbean 2) and Ray Winstone (The Departed) is superb! Everyone in the film committed to their part and treated it like they were performing for adults. You don't get the impression from any of the performances that they're pandering to kids. On a side note, they did pander to people like me as there is a reference to Hunter S. Thompson and his characters from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas...but me and one other guy were the only ones laughing our asses off at that. You won't hear me say this too often but Rango would have been better in 3D. I think animation is the only genre that really impresses in 3D and this world is so rich with color and action that it seemed like a waste to not offer an extra dimension. I hope that Johnny Depp considers Rango as much of a success as I do and will go back to making movies for grown-ups again. We miss him in R-rated craziness.
Rango (Rated PG)
Gavin Grade: B+