Ink Blotting - Rango

Posted on Wednesday, March 23, 2011 at 12:00 AM

Review Type: General
Movie: Rango

The preview for Rango is likely enough to demonstrate exactly what this movie is.  It’s a Gore Verbinski / Johnny Depp collaboration that has neither of the two gentlemen’s particular style in evidence.  Depp is a fair to middling voice actor, which may have more to do with his name on the marquee than his actual voice work and Verbinski is a talented action/adventure director enmeshed in a world of CG that actually has no physical actor represented on the picture.
“The making of Rango” shows how Verbinski and Depp resolved their inability to actually create the movie in a human setting.  They had the actors dress up and act out the scenes, more or less, on camera.  There’s no stop motion “Gollum” work involved in it, it’s just reference material for the animators.  I highly recommend watching that if you can, and the preview intrigues you.  Johnny Depp’s physicality and character shine through when you can actually see him physically create the character.
The movie has a tremendously good (89%) rating on but that could likely be the Depp-bump that a lot of movies that he stars in receives.  I wonder how well this movie would have fared if it didn’t have Depp and other big-name stars attached as the voice work.  I was reading an article the other day that was bemoaning that very fact – that there are tremendously gifted voice actors out there that are losing opportunities to do big production animation because hiring movie stars brings greater buzz to the promotion of the movie.  After some serious thought about it, I completely agree, and wish it could be otherwise.
But back to the movie itself.  There is very little that works against the movie.  The voice acting is reasonable, there is quite a bit to laugh at and about and the action is engaging.  Should you take your 3 year old to see it and expect to see the entire movie?  I can safely answer that, with experience, “no” but your 3-year old at the end of the movie will say “that snake was a bad person and I really liked the green guy” so that is at least a plus.
Does the movie hit you over the head about conservationism and mis-use of resources the way Wall-E did?  Perhaps, but in some ways it is more subtle and more directly connected to the plot of the movie than in Wall-E.  Do the desert animals that make up the cast of characters delight and enrapture an audience?  To me they did.  Verbinski and the animator’s attention to detail is one of the most successful elements of the film.
When my daughter asked me who my favorite character was in the car on the way home I initially wasn’t able to answer.  My wife liked Beans, but I didn’t immediately have a character I liked and empathized with.  Then she laughed and told me that I liked the owls the most because they made me laugh a lot.  And damn was she right.  Those lying birds did make me laugh the most, even if they lied about the course of events that were to unfold in the movie.
Solid fun.  Somehow rotten tomatoes got it right in my books.  A solid 89% of an armadillo is still a living armadillo, right?


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