August 13, 2011

#135: Rango (8/10)

Every now and then a movie comes along and totally surprises you with its awesomeness. Rango was one of those movies for me. I expected a run of the mill Pixar wannabe animated film. It turned out to be so much more than that. I liked Rango better than most of the Pixar fare from the last few years. It is filled with amazing visuals, interesting looking characters, and plenty of solid action. It was very pleasant surprise that I can't wait to watch again.

I admittedly haven't thought about it too much, but I can't recall another film where the characters, especially the main one, is so ugly. They are ugly in the most beautiful and interesting way possible. Each animal is this film is given so much detail and texture. It seems like a lot of care was given when coming up with the designs for each and every character in this film. They came up with some very detailed and very ugly looking creatures and I loved looking at them. Even the minor characters who didn't get much screen time were designed very well.

Rango of course is an animated movie and the marketing was aimed at children. However, it doesn't seem like a very kid friendly movie at all. I'd be interested to hear what youngsters had to say about it. There were plenty of bright colors and action to keep the kids visually interested, but there is no way they cared about the story of followed the dialog. Half the time I couldn't even follow the dialog because it was difficult to understand what they were saying. What I did understand had a lot of adult vocabulary, and the entire thing was filled with references to other film that were decidedly not for children.

I really wish I would have gone to the theater to see Rango. It is the type of movie that I don't mind spending the money to see. Not to mention it probably looked phenomenal on the big screen. If somehow I ever get the chance to see it in a theater I wouldn't hesitate, though I am doubtful it will never happen.

The movie starts out with us seeing how Rango gets separated from his human owners. I'm not even sure we get to see the humans in that scene, and we definitely don't get to see them, or even hear mention of them, for the rest of the film. I liked that. Another interesting thing about that scene is that Rango doesn't actually have a name at that point in the film. If he does, he doesn't seem to know it, and we never find out what it is. He has lived his life in a glass case, and has no idea how to relate to the rest of the world. As he walks through the desert he is a blank slate who has no idea who he is or who he wants to be. The rest of the film is about that journey. Even thought that journey is the main through-line it definitely cannot be described as a character drama. It doesn't go so deep into that aspect, and that is okay. I found the first third of the film somewhat difficult to connect with because Rango is a frustrating main character. He is essentially a bafoon who has no clue what he is doing. He continually stumbles into doing something right even though he goes about it in the worst way possible. That was funny and interesting at first, but it took him too long to get things together. I was never bored by the film, but there was a stretch where it got a tiny bit tedious.

At first I was concerned with Johnny Depp as Rango. Depp brings his brand of schtick to the lizard and at the very beginning of the film it was distracting. After a few minutes I didn't notice it anymore and the rest of the performance worked really well. There were plenty of other goof voice performances as well.

One thing did kind of bother me about this movie.  The animals have created a whole town comparable to a human-sized old west town. They have several normal human-sized items in there that have been re-purposed in a clever manner, i.e. a Pepto Bismol bottle is used as an outhouse.  However, they also have tiny versions of other objects.  Sure they could get stuff from toys and tiny clothing, but fully functioning tiny revolvers? Where did those come from? Did they make them? When I re-watch I am going to be paying more attention to this, maybe there is some consistency or explanation I didn't notice before.

Rango turned out to be so much more than I expected. It had great action, decent humor, and was quirky enough to feel unique without being precocious. It isn't a perfect film, but I felt it got a lot closer than most animated movies. I'm looking forward to watching it again. If there is a good deal on the bluray I might even consider buying it. That is about the highest compliment I could pay to a movie.

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