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Rango (voice of Johnny Depp) is a rather ordinary chameleon who fantasises about being a swashbuckling hero. When he finds himself thrown (literally) into the middle of a small Western town of Dirt plagued by baddies and short of water, he is forced to try and play the hero's role to save the town and give it hope (and water).

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Who else but Johnny Depp would director Gore Verbinski cast to voice the character of Rango, given how they worked together to create Jack Sparrow, one of the most entertaining pirates in the Caribbean (the fourth edition coming in May). Rango, let’s face it, is another colourful and entertaining character slightly off the beaten track. He’s a mostly green chameleon with a bright holiday shirt and giant bug eyes. But the colour doesn’t stop at his looks. 

We meet him in a surprising fashion on the road to who knows where, when his human owners get careless . . . let’s just leave it at that. 

Verbinski and writer John Logan have created a whirlpool of crazy ideas that threaten to wobble out of control any and every minute, so if you get dizzy easy, take a seatbelt. Not sure myself how I kept going with it, but if you buy the madcap character and the offbeat setting, you’ll be fine. Especially if you’re about 12. But there’s much here for us grown ups, too, notably sensational and seamless animation, rich and textured characters (voiced by a rich and textured cast) and some subtle references to not only other movies but a loving homage to the Western as a genre with iconic images and concepts populating the screen.

Not always so subtle … there is an endearing tribute to Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name character that is worth the price of admission alone. I’ve never seen Eastwood portrayed in animation, and the work is impeccable – not because it is photorealistic, but because it so perfectly captures the Eastwood of old (as opposed to the old Eastwood). 

There are many other icons of Westerns that are lovingly included and it’s fun catching them out of the corner of your mind’s eye. If you have time, that is.

The essence of the story is simple enough: When Rango the would-be hero finds himself thrown (literally) into the middle of the small Western town of Dirt plagued by baddies and short of water, he is forced to try and become a real hero to save the town and give it hope (and water).

But that’s the short version. There is a great amount of detail between those lines, brought about by characters like the lizard-like girl known as Beans (Isla Fisher), who has plenty of them and encourages Rango to find his mojo. Ned Beatty voices the wonderful character of the Mayor, an elderly turtle who is as gnarled on the inside as he is on the outside. Ray Winstone makes Bad Bill sound like a London gangster, which he probably is, in the body of a croc, while Alfred Molina gives his rodent, Roadkill, a certain pathos. These and many more wonderful creations run amock on the screen. 

There isn’t a human in sight of course, physically speaking, but the strengths and weaknesses of the characters are recognisably human. Greed, courage, loyalty and determination all get shelf space as Rango learns that being different needn’t be a hindrance to doing the right thing and believing in yourself.

So of course there is a moral to the story and our sense of justice is well satisfied, but not without getting to laugh and cry and tap our feet to the four Mexican owl amigos – the alternative to the Greek chorus when you’re in the old West.

The fresh ideas that propel the film also glue it together, with help from Hans Zimmer’s great score. The sound of ‘Rango-ooooo’ will be ringing your ears as you make your way from dusty Dirt back to your place.
First published in the Sun-Herald

Review by Louise Keller:
There's a lot to like about Rango, the colourful, kooky chameleon looking for enlightenment in this unique and imaginative animation that takes the form of a Western, and embraces a zoo of weird and wonderful characters. It's a bit long and some things work better than others, but there is a zippy energy throughout as well as an eccentric bent with a perpetual gun-barrel filled with inventive ideas. With Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski at the helm and Johnny Depp injecting his voice talents to the insecure antihero who goes from humble beginnings to hero status, the film offers many surprises, some chuckles and a welcome sense of fun as it tips its hat to the genre.

Just like the little pigs who gave running commentary in Babe, Rango's four cute owl amigos play guitar, violin, trumpet and accordion, and sing at odd intervals on the progress of our hero in the Mojave desert. Depp is the life and soul of the film as he creates a wonderful character filled with delusions, fantasies, insecurities and ultimately strength of spirit. The red Hawaiian shirt which his turquoise chameleon with expressive bulging eyes, spindly arms, and crooked neck is wearing is traded for a sheriff's badge in the dusty Town of Dirt, where water, as the most rare and sought after commodity is stored in the bank.

There are some good lines like 'Sink in the guacamole of your own deception' and 'Your guts will be leakin' lead', but my favourite moment comes with an inspired Clint Eastwood homage. The villains (intent to rob the town's inhabitants of their water) comprise the greedy, wheelchair bound snail of a Mayor (voiced by Ned Beatty) and Bill Nighy's writhing Rattlesnake Jake, around whose long twisted snakeskin body ammunition is wrapped. The townsfolk are a muddled bunch of all animal persuasions and I love the eccentricity of the film's heroine with ringlets voiced by Isla Fisher (with the unlikely name of Beans), who gets more than she anticipates during her surprise underwater kiss with Rango. There is some clever use of music and of course, like all good westerns, the film has a couple of shootouts before conflicts are resolved and Rango happily finds his mojo.

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(US, 2011)

VOICES: Johnny Depp, Ned Beatty, Alfred Molina, Isla Fisher, Bill Nighy, Stephen Root, Harry Dean Stanton, Timothy Oliphant, Ray Winstone, Ian Abercrombie

PRODUCER: John B. Carls, Graham King, Gore Verbinski

DIRECTOR: Gore Verbinski

SCRIPT: John Logan, Gore Verbinski


EDITOR: Craig Wood

MUSIC: Hans Zimmer

PRODUCTION DESIGN: March 'Crash' McCreery

RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes



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