Film Review: Rango (2011)

15 Mar

By Mike Childs

“The Lizard, he is going to die” states the Mexican Mariachi owl before strumming his guitar. Well, maybe not anytime soon as long as Rango’s got anything to with it. In this wildly inventive, quirky and original animation film from director Gore Verbinski many creatures and critters may want to see our scaly hero bite the dust, but we’ll be cheering him on from the rooftops of the old Wild Western town of Dirt as he rights wrongs, avenges misdeeds and cleans up the corruption perpetrated by the bad old big business guys.

Bug-eyed chameleon Rango (superbly voiced by Johnny Depp) is a strange looking critter with a talent to amuse – himself.  Life in a glass tank with a wind-up plastic fish and a broken doll provide endless opportunities for flights of surreal fancy, but when disaster strikes and he finds himself all alone in the harsh desert he needs all his thespian skills to survive. Arriving in Dirt he discovers the town’s water supply is nearly dry, and he uses his outlandish storytelling skills to somehow convince the population that he can help then through their dire crisis. He does this by becoming their sheriff and eventual saviour, but not before slaying the monster Rattlesnake Jake (voiced by Bill Nighy), and upstaging many of the local baddies including Bad Bill (gruffly voiced by Ray Winstone). And for good measure there’s a love interest, of sorts, with the occasionally catatonic Beans (well voiced by Isla Fisher).

The film looks stunning, due in no small part to the work of famed cinematographer Roger (True Grit) Deakins who acted as visual consultant (a role he also performed on Pixar’s equally desolate looking WALL-E) and the slightly repulsive mainly reptilian creatures serve to enhance the story through their distinct lack of cartoon cuteness. Hans Zimmer’s music references some classic western themes and the script is full of knowing nods to great old favourites like High Noon.

As voiced by Johnny Depp, Rango is a truly believable accidental hero. Director Gore Verbinski has worked with Depp on all three Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and knows how to get the best from his talent here. The only caveat I have is that Rango may be a little too clever for smaller children although there’s probably enough slapstick for most kids. Watch out for the cigar and cactus juice saloon bar scene!

And does the lizard die? Well, what do you think!

One Response to “Film Review: Rango (2011)”

  1. Rachael May 19, 2015 at 4:35 am #

    Thanks for discussing Film Review: Rango (2011) | Australian Film Review.

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