Review: RANGO (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 14 March 2011

Review: RANGO (2011)


A loving tribute to the spaghetti western genre in the spirit of Sergio Leone with a dash of Sam Peckinpah-vibe, RANGO is an entertaining animated adventure blessed with top-notch animation, inspired cast and spectacular action sequences that appeal for both children and adults alike. But it's more likely appreciated by the adults since the movie is leaning towards more on sophisticated themes, complex narrative structure and of course, pop-culture references from some of the most beloved western genres of the past.

The story, in the meantime, centers on a pet chameleon (voiced by Johnny Depp) who imagines himself as a thespian doing playacting in a terrarium with the remnants of a headless plastic doll, a palm tree and a plastic goldfish. Then an unexpected thing happens -- his owner's car accidentally bumps onto something and immediately sends his glass case flung off from the backseat. The glass case hits onto the steamy asphalt of a desert highway and shattered into pieces. For the first time ever, he finds himself in the outside world and later meets a wise armadillo (Alfred Molina), who is actually the cause of the accident in the first place. The armadillo wants to cross on the "other side" of the road, a sort of metaphor that he tells a story along about a mystical figure called the Spirit of the West (Timothy Olyphant). The curious chameleon is so interested with his story that he wastes no further time to set out in a search of a town called Dirt. As he journeys across the scorching desert, he finds himself in a great danger when he encounters a hungry hawk but manages to escape nonetheless. He also meets a feisty and tough-looking Beans (Isla Fisher), an iguana struggling to save her late daddy's ranch from being sold. Coincidentally, her hometown happens to be Dirt and later the chameleon is told that the town is currently suffering from water shortage problem. Upon arrival, he wanders into a local bar and calls himself as Rango, which is actually named after he sees the words on the side of a cactus juice container. Using his thespian skill, he ends up convincing the townspeople by claiming he's a well-known gunslinger who once shot seven outlaws with a single bullet. However, one of the locals, a bully named Bad Bill (Ray Winstone) challenges Rango for a showdown to prove whether he is for real or not. Unfortunately their showdown is interrupted by a sudden arrival of a hawk seeking Rango for revenge. In an ensuing chase across the town, Rango has somewhat defeats the menacing hawk with a single bullet and everybody starts to cheer for him. He becomes so popular that the Mayor (Ned Beatty) is very interested to meet him in person and offers him a job as the town sheriff. And little he do realizes that the Mayor is trying to manipulate him as well as the townspeople who is actually have to do with the water shortage problem. When the town bank is being robbed and a financial adviser ends up dead along with the missing water tank, Rango is soon finds himself tangled with an army of suspected bandits lead by Balthazar (Harry Dean Stanton). But of course, nothing is really what it seems at the first place.

Like PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN trilogy director Gore Verbinski has previously helmed, the story (written by John Logan) is just as complicated and layered as it gets. It's certainly an ambitious move but at the same time it's also among the weakness that cripples the momentum of the movie. Not surprisingly, the movie feels laborious at times and seriously in need for trimming.

Patchy storytelling aside, the movie remains a visually stunning experience. As the first animated feature made by the special effects company Industrial Light & Magic, the animation -- the assorted varieties of animal characters, the sweeping vista, the scorching desert, the baking sun and the glimmering water -- are all lovingly detailed and superbly rendered it's simply photorealistic. What's even remarkable is that the movie doesn't rely on 3D to prove its point for stunning visual and it's clearly shows how Industrial Light & Magic is a powerhouse player in this area. The action, in the meantime, is exhilarating especially in the middle part involving a spectacular aerial chase between Rango and his posse battling against Balthazar's army of bandits. Adult fans will enjoy shade of Sam Peckinpah's THE WILD BUNCH (1969) here, noted for the action scene (particularly on the usage of Gatling gun). Apart from the impeccable visual, Hans Zimmer's majestic score is equally exciting as well, providing the extra boost for the action sequences.

As for the vocal performances, the acting are certainly a class above. Johnny Depp gives a boosting manic energy to his ever-twitchy Rango. His performance is so spontaneous and often hilarious, which is no doubt his much-needed recovery after a shockingly dull role for last year's THE TOURIST. Meanwhile, Isla Fisher is bright, offbeat and funny as Beans. Both her and Depp certainly share some winning chemistry together. The rest of the supporting characters are equally as energetic and memorable, even to smaller roles by the likes of Alfred Molina as the wise armadillo and Timothy OIyphant in a great Clint Eastwood-like impersonation as the Spirit of the West (an obvious reference to Leone's THE MAN WITH NO NAME trilogy).

While RANGO doesn't exactly ranks up to the par of Pixar standards (especially in term of overall package), the movie is throughout substantial enough to warrant a recommended viewing.

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