Rango review: It’s easy being mean as chameleon steps into sheriff’s boots
posted by: Guest Blogger
A lonesome pet lizard with a flair for the dramatic undergoes a transformation when he finds himself in a real desert instead of a terrarium.
Johnny Depp gives a voice that’s equal measures goofy and oh-so-aware to the hero of director Gore Verbinski’s winning animated Western, “Rango.”
Lime green with fascinating eyes, Rango is sure to give the GEICO gecko a slither for its money. One of the immediate pleasures of this genre-tweaking, Westward-ho ride is the way the various critters populating this dusty world have been rendered by the folk at Industrial Light & Magic. The fun starts with one very existential armadillo.
With the characters’ whiskers and bristles and agate-marble eyes, they are ugly-beguiling and prickly in the way desert fauna and flora can be.
And, eureka! The movie’s in old-fashioned 2-D — and it’s quite purty.
A mariachi quartet of owls provides troubadour accompaniment for the legend, strumming, trumpeting and crooning about a “hero who has yet to enter his own story.”
Rango’s tale takes a fateful turn when he spellbinds a saloon full of rough types with a fib about a bullet and an act of valor. Remember, he’s a chameleon. Which is either just another word for nothing left to lose, or actor.
And so Rango takes on the made-up name and a fabricated role of sheriff when there’s actual villainy afoot.
Isla Fisher portrays Beans, a damsel with a strange habit of freezing mid- sentence.
Neither a sequel nor a reboot, this parable of accidental heroism will nonetheless ring a few bells for the adults in the multiplex. There’s a dash of “Shane,” a dollop of “High Noon.” The unctuous mayor (Bill Nighy) has a bit of Old Man Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life” in him and a lot of John Huston’s indelible baddie Noah Cross.
And with its sadly timely tale of an H2O-depleted town called Dirt and a fight for water, “Rango” gives more than a wink to “Chinatown.”
There’s even a Jake. Forget it, though — this one’s not a hero, but a hired villain of a snake with a Gatling gun for a rattle.
During his rather trippy quest for clarity and grit, Rango meets a mysterious figure. He resembles a modern Western icon whose name we won’t divulge but is portrayed by Timothy Olyphant, who’s remaking a name for himself as the lawman in the FX channel’s “Justified.” “Rango” even borrows — both in casting and weirdness — from the Depp-Verbinski franchise “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
Only this time, the swashbuckler is a gunslinging sheriff, and the ocean is a sea of sand and cacti.
And, yes, that is enough nods to other sources to make Rango a bobblehead. But the movie, and much of John Logan’s writing, is still pretty durn clever.
The youngest moviegoers will neither know, nor care, about the movie’s packed corral of references (though chaperones be warned: It does get racy in parts). For them, Rango’s a cold-blooded — literally — good guy.
PG for rude humor, language, action and smoking. 1 hour, 47 minutes. Directed by Gore Verbinski; written by John Logan; feature animation by Industrial Light & Magic; starring the voices of Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone and Timothy Olyphant. Opens today at area theaters.