Netflix Review: Rango

Netflix Streaming
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Starring Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Ray Winstone, Timothy Olyphant, Ned Beatty
Paramount Pictures
Originally Released: March 4, 2011

While branded as an animated family movie, Rango is truly a thrilling Western and hysterical comedy all built into one. The animation is remarkable in its coupling with some memorable voice acting, supported by a solid script and iconic scenes. Rango is a film that must not be missed.

The movie tells the story of our title character, who begins as a household family pet with gigantic dreams of becoming the most revered and versatile actor of all time. A chance accident finds him lost and alone on a desert highway, from where he finds his way to the City Of Dirt. The plot then morphs into a Western motif at this point, where Rango discovers he may be able to play the role of a lifetime in this new city.

In the City of Dirt, drought reigns, as the inhabitants become despondent and hopeless. The water reserves are near gone – and when a town robbery finds the town emptied of all water supplies, newly recruited Sheriff Rango begins to follow the criminals’ path. The chase begins a long and surprisingly mature plot that includes many symbolic moments; most notably Rango and his quest for identity and self.

The voice casting in Rango essentially sells the show. While Johnny Depp does a brilliant job as the title character, his voice performance is actually eclipsed by legendary Ned Beatty as the Mayor. Bill Nighy is also a major highlight as Rattlesnake Jake, his character wisely reserved for the latter portion of the film. Also worth mentioning are Alfred Molina and Ray Winstone who take on some memorable roles.

Timothy Olyphant‘s appearance was a fabulous inclusion, as he takes on the role of The Spirit Of The West (actually a personification of one of the most memorable Western characters/actors in cinematic history) – quite simply, a cameo of complete brilliance. The considerable talent comprising the voice cast is most certainly a consolidating influence.

The visual CGI work by ILM in Rango, their first ever fully animated movie, is the biggest asset to the film. While the animation is deliberately taken from outside the scope of reality, the art direction is wisely left close to realism and plausibility. The model character designs are an absolute credit to the animation artists, with an amazing attention to detail that has to be seen to be believed; with considerable allowances made to individual idiosyncrasies that set each character apart from each other.

There are also some perceptible likenesses of the actors added in to the character designs in some places, as well as some nice hints of Spaghetti Western stereotypes.

The script behind Rango is surprisingly strong. While it’s marketed as kids’ animated film, it is remarkably adult in its maturity – and I’m not referring to anything inappropriate. The mature nature of the film struck me immeasurably, especially with some significant symbolism incorporated into some major memorable sequences that include some of the most beautiful animation I’ve seen. Everything introduced in the story comes into play sometime, occasionally in a surprising fashion, but always enjoyable.

The movie comes with some fantastic scenes that are destined to become iconic and memorable. “The Ride of the Valkyries” (with bonus banjos) sequence is perhaps my favorite of the whole movie, injecting a little WWII dogfight iconography to the western ornamentation. Complete with believable action and accented with some hysterical comedic moments, this sequence (essentially a chase sequence) is most definitely a highlight of Rango, and makes the entire viewing experience meaningful.

Also worth mentioning in this review is that many of Johnny Depp’s film history shows up in Rango as cameos or set designs. Fans will notice shots that are taken from Pirates Of The Caribbean, Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, Once Upon A Time In Mexico, and more.

And being a KISS fan, I must also emphasize that my favorite band’s logo makes an appearance in the film.

I’m sure other fans noticed this also.

I was pleasantly surprised by Rango. Going into the viewing experience, I was anticipating a family animated experience along the likes of Pixar stories – but I was taken aback by how much work ILM have done, with director Gore Verbinski, on making the overall ambience of Rango a completely irreplaceable ride. There’s no doubt that all ages will enjoy this movie, but adult viewers will also find it highly entertaining; and fans of Westerns will absolutely love the tip of the hat that Verbinski makes with Rango. Watch this one as soon as you can.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5


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