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Majestic Preview: Rango

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It’s another week and another film at the Majestic.


Rango is an unusual film, in that it’s an computer animated film with plenty of kinetic energy for young audiences, but delivers its best flourishes that only a niche audience will appreciate.  It tells the story using a wide selection of small fauna, including various rodents, lizards, and the occasional amphibian.  The protagonist Rango is voiced by Johnny Depp, who leads a surprisingly deep voice cast including Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Stephen Root, Timothy Olyphant, and Ray Winstone.  In fact, there are so many different inhabitants of the town of Dirt, that it can be difficult differentiating the minor characters.

The story is as uncomplicated as one expects in a children’s film, in which Rango is deputized after killing a hawk that has plagued the town.  He must save the town by discovering what happened to the water supply.

The richness of the texture work on the character models gives a nearly photo-realistic appearance to the film, which also means there’s a lack of cuteness, outside of Rango’s asymmetrical form.  I couldn’t help but wonder how long it would take me to locate a broom, should I find a Rango-critter on my porch.  Younger children may also find the bad-guy rattle snake, voiced by Nighy, to be a bit too scary.

Despite everything working in its favor, including a focus on ensemble-performance of the voice characterizations, Rango seems to have just missed the cusp of success.  Even the numerous cross-references to other films and a general send-up of the western-stranger-comes-to-town genre can’t quite deliver.  Maybe they should have gotten Clint Eastwood’s help.  Rango, fails by a small margin to a level of greatness in animation often seen in the films of Pixar, like Wall-E or Ratatouie, or the best work from other animation houses like How to Train Your Dragon or Despicable Me.

Perhaps it is worse to fail by a small margin than to fail so utterly.  Don’t get the impression that you should, under no circumstances, go to this movie.  Rango is good for its breed and an engaging hour and forty-seven minutes.  Keep a sharp eye out in the Ride of the Valkyries chase sequence, which is the best action set of the film.

See Also

To properly orient yourself to the narrowly-defined western subgenre in which a stranger comes to town, check out classics such as Shane, Bad Day at Blackrock, and Pale Rider.

As it’s referenced heavily in one particular scene, watching Rango is a great excuse to dust off Apocalypse Now for its Ride of the Valkyries sequence.

The first Toy Story is also a stranger-comes-to-town story, making it closely related to Rango in plot and animation.

Written by Bill

April 5, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Posted in Movies

Tagged with ,

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