Saturday, March 5, 2011


MPAA (PG) CNS/USCCB (A-III) Roger Ebert (4 stars) Fr. Dennis (3 stars)

IMDb Listing -
CNS/USCCB Review -
Roger Ebert’s Review -

Rango is an animated movie written by John Logan, et al and directed by Gore Verbinski that has something for all ages. I saw the movie in a theatre where easily half the viewers were little kids, who clearly enjoyed of the antics of the animated characters. And for the parents and grandparents the movie’s allusions to all kinds of previous movies make the film entertaining for them as well. Indeed, there is one chase scene alone involving a family of moles riding bats that evokes Star Wars I, Apocalypse Now, Avatar and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Yet a good part of the story runs more like Chinatown and its already ½ animated goofy successor Who Framed Roger Rabbit because underlying the story is a "conspiracy" that as in any good "noir" flick is not fully revealed until the end.

The story is this, Rango (voice by Johnny Depp), a pet lizard, who has aspirations of making a name for himself finds his horizons limitted and the "theatrical productions" that he puts on (for himself, really) very dry. Why? Because he realizes that he really hasn’t done anything in life. He’s been simply a pet kept in a clear glass box with some inanimate objects serving as "friends."

Fortunately, at this point, Luck / Fate sets him free. Unbeknownst to him, he and his terrarium were traveling in a car with his family somewhere through the Desert Southwest (apparently the family was moving) and the car has to swerve. Rango’s terrarium falls off the luggage rack and crashes onto the pavement in the middle of desert, setting him free from his previously sheltered/limited existence.

Can Rango survive? Well the leader of a group of Mariachi dressed owls is convinced that "The lizard’s gonna die." But wait, Rango’s a quick-learner, a lizard with gumption, one who only needed freedom to reach for and attain his destiny. And freedom he now had.

Rango soon finds himself among a community of  "good, hardworking desert folk" (mostly reptiles and rodents), okay some of the varmints were always "hardly workin.'" But they added color to the place.  In anycase, whether on the ranch or in the saloon, all these creatures find themselves increasingly in a crunch. In a world where water had always served as their "currency" (and water was _always_ scarce), things had gotten progressively worse in recent years.  And the reptiles and rodents that Rango encounters don’t understand why.

Only the mayor, a tortoise (voice played by Ned Beatty), arguably a pawn in the scheme himself, has used the "wisdom of his years" to "follow the water" and his "appreciation of the arc of history" to protect himself and a few bootlicking cronies. The rest are SOL.

Particularly distressed is Rango’s love interest in the story, Beans (voice by Isla Fisher). A lizard herself who lost her daddy a while back, she is desperately trying to find water so that she could "keep her land." (Beans has a psychological "tick" that is both funny and an obvious borrowing to the "tick" of the dogs in the animated picture Up of some years back. Beans is the only one "in the whole valley" who hasn’t abandoned her land to the scheming mayor, reminding one of a whole host of movies, including the movie There Will be Blood. It’s left to Rango to figure out what is mysteriously happening to the water.

Again, I found Rango to be entertaining and the allusions to all kinds of past movies creative. I particularly loved the Mariachi playing owls reminding me of countless Vicente Fernandez and Antonio Aguilar movies from Mexico that I have loved over the years and dearly wish had been subtitled or dubbed into English long ago.

Rango’s story, of course, ends well and the mystery of the "missing water" is solved, the answer reminding one of the animated movie of some years back Antz.

Families can’t go wrong with this movie. The kids will love it and the movie buff will probably love it for its innumerable allusions to previous films all the more.

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