Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski, who have worked together on the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, re-team for the animated film Rango. The result is not quite what would be expected. Rango is light on laughs and lacks the typical lovable characters but takes on a tone rarely attempted in family films.
The story centers on a chameleon “named” Rango (voiced by Depp) that finds himself in the desert and comes upon the town of “Dirt”. There he plays the part of a hero, taking on the role of Sheriff and trying to solve a water shortage crisis.
Rango is a dreamer and in being thrust into the wild he has little knowledge of how to survive. Interestingly though he isn’t portrayed as a bumbling idiot and I have to give the filmmakers credit for that move. They could have gone the “cheap laugh” route but instead put some intelligent thought into Rango, his motivations, and interactions with the other characters. Not only is he capable but he often comes up with plans on the fly that actually succeed.
The secondary characters though are very odd and may not have much appeal, particularly to children, because they are shown in a realistic manner rather than being caricatures of their real-life counterparts. In fact many of them are flat out ugly even to a grotesque extent. The potential love interest for Rango is Bean (voiced by Isla Fisher) and even she isn’t glamorized.
What really stood out in Rango is the true vastness of the desert and the loneliness that comes along with it during the adventure. There are several stretches where dialogue is at a minimum and the characters struggle with their fates and their reliance on community in a time of peril.
Despite everything about the film that was unique it struggled at times with pacing, the story felt pieced together rather than possessing a natural flow of progression, and there were even points where I simply started to get bored. There was a sense of meanness (though that could be a fair representation at times of the animal world) and a few lines that could be considered questionably adult for the PG rating.
Rango is best described as an animated western adventure not just in look but in tone. That may throw some people off who go into the film expecting it to be along the lines of what has been popular in the animated field the past few years. Ultimately it deserves praise for doing something different even if it didn’t completely pull it off.
Rango is rated PG and opens on March 4th.