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A movie directed by Gore Verbinski.

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Clever, Fun and Entertaining....Johnny Depp Rides On As "Rango"!

  • Mar 6, 2011
I am going to be truly honest here; I love spaghetti westerns and I enjoy almost any film with any sort of theme, tone and mood that is the slightest bit similar to a western. That said, I hope you can understand the mindset I went into this new animated film directed by Gore Verbinski called “Rango”. The film was written by John Logan (responsible for acclaimed hits such as “Gladiator” and “The Aviator”), who isn’t exactly known for kid movies; and I have to say that the film feels like it has been written by someone who has seen one dumbed-down animated film too many. He tries to do something new and original as in depth, tone and mood. What happens is a film that can cater mostly to adults with a fondness for animated films.

Along the highway, a fast-talking chameleon (Johnny Depp) is finally freed to wander around on his own; with only his knowledge for the dramatic and theatrics to sustain him as he lies stuck in this wasteland. Stumbling on a small town called “Dirt”, the chameleon reinvents himself as a gun slinger named “Rango“, to win the confidence of the townsfolk. After averting a disaster, he is made the town sheriff, given the duty of protecting the town while trying to solve its water problems. With the town mayor giving support and his posse, Rango goes forth to find life-giving water only to find something more sinister than he had expected.

                                 The Mariachi Owls in ``Rango.''

                                Sergeant Turley, Spoons, Wounded Bird, Ambrose, Elgin, Waffles, Buford, Beans and Rango in ``Rango.''

The world of “Rango” happens inside something one may say is a ‘pocket universe’ filled with talking desert creatures (rodents, snakes, amphibians and others) who lives and breathes the old west. The direction doesn’t dawdle, Verbinski goes straight to the stomach in injecting chase excitement in the beginning of the film as our ‘hero’ is thrown out into the back of a moving car. It is an easy set up and getting stuck in the desert with nowhere else to go as a classic way for one of this animated movies to get going. The film has “Chinatown” written all over its plot and the set piece feels like a homage to those classic spaghetti westerns.

                The Hawk and Rango in ``Rango.''

               Priscilla in ``Rango.''

               Rango and Mr. Timms in ``Rango.''

I guess one would say that the film simply relies on such mechanics as pop culture tributes, but I have to disagree; the film has some pretty interesting characters and this fantasy world has a lot of fun doing it. The characters were well-conceived, they may indeed be the vermin of the old west, but their appearances are their own. I enjoyed the clever way the script brings forth the each animal imprint to suit each personality. The film played both tributes for westerns and funny touches in the environment such as the toilet made from a bottle of Peptobismol. Each design has a purpose, and each character has a significance (loved the singing owls). There were also the politics of the town of “Dirt”; this pocket universe is also vulnerable to the laws of progression.

As with most animated films by Dreamworks, the plot is pretty easy to follow. The way that the movie is executed is loaded up with style. Nickelodeon opts for humor but it doesn’t really force it. I liked the dialogue as it speaks volumes for the intricacies of each character. It also helps when Johnny Depp is the one who does the voice-acting for our main character. Deep always had the ability to stick to a particular timing that makes his antics charming and very effective. As he bluffs and exaggerates his stories to work his way to the hearts of the townsfolk and to the sheriff’s office. Other characters such the town mayor (voiced by Ned Beatty) is a reflection of one’s villainous nature despite his handicap. Beans (Isla Fisher) represent the strength of the female spirit to push forward despite several things that bar her way. I also liked the diamondback snake called Jake (Bill Nighy), as he can be real creepy when he wants to be.

                            A scene from ``Rango.''

                           A scene from ``Rango.''

Hope and belief are also themes that are strong in this film; “the Spirit of the West” (played by Timothy Olyphant) and the way the townsfolk hopes for a better tomorrow are very human sides that appeal to an older viewer. It takes some detours from being a simple slapstick comedy, there is some surrealism in the film (displayed in that dance at high noon and the dreams), some dark themes, and the fall of a ‘hero’ before the eventual triumph. The screenplay by John Logan may be charming and at times even endearing, but it was a little more intelligent than your usual kid-friendly animated film.

The film is visually stunning and the animation is impressive; textures, colors and character are given focus in the designs. I loved the way the shadows were played along with the script to mimic the mood of a town close to being extinct. The boards and wood in the buildings are dilapidated and are shown as being exposed to the elements for a very long time. It was a fine approach to go with a darker mood with this pocket universe, it balances and yet it gives some contrast to the make believe colorful world that this chameleon had left behind. The soundtrack by Hans Zimmer was also quite effective in expressing the mood of a gritty western. The action sequences were also quite good; and had that swashbuckling spirit that Logan had written in “Pirates of the Caribbean”.

                         The Mayor in ``Rango.''

                         A scene from ``Rango.''

So despite all my ‘likes’, how come I couldn’t give the movie a perfect score? Well, some parts of the film dragged a little bit and some parts felt like they were mere ‘fillers’ and did nothing to improve the film's enjoyment. It feels a little longer than it should’ve been, and while I like longer movies with a lot of dialogue-heavy scenes, this had lingering moments that should’ve set up something climactic but they never came. It does begin and finish well, but there were times along the middle that I felt that it began to run out of momentum. Yes, “Rango” isn't a perfect motion picture, but it is far from being a bad movie or even a mediocre one since there is so much to be enjoyed here. It has all the ingredients of a great cinematic experience. It is entertaining albeit it is a tad uneven, as the glue that held everything together should've been stronger and some areas needed sprucing up. “Rango” is more clever than most animated films I’ve seen; and definitely a step in the right direction.

 Recommended! [4- Out of 5 Stars]

             Poster art for "Rango."


Clever, Fun and Entertaining....Johnny Depp Rides On As Clever, Fun and Entertaining....Johnny Depp Rides On As

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September 09, 2011
I got to see this one Woo and loved it...I didn't think it dragged in any parts though; I was highly entertained by it and the visuals were stunning. My daughter and I had a great time watching this one. The story and characters were fabulous I thought and is now my official favorite animation. I wrote a "cutey" LOL on it and stuck in a video of the characters behind the scenes - I just loved this one!!
September 10, 2011
I gotcha...
May 18, 2011
" Depp always had the ability to stick to a particular timing that makes his antics charming and very effective" is an excellent way of describing my Johnny D!!!! I agree, and I was sorry I missed this movie at the theater, but will definitely rent it when the time comes. I am becoming more and more a fan of good animated movies, and this one is a must-see for me. Thanks for the great review Woo.
September 10, 2011
you and Johnny....LOL!
September 10, 2011
I know it--it's sad isn't it?!?!?! lmao
March 26, 2011
Ok, I'm game! :D
March 28, 2011
March 07, 2011
What's a spaghetti western? Great review, Woo, you're making me wanna see it!
March 07, 2011
Oh, classic movies such as The Good The Bad and The Ugly, and A Fistful of Dollars were westerns that were shot in Italy; hence the term "Spaghetti westerns" as with Asian westerns are called "Kimchi westerns" (Korean), "Oriental" western (Hong Kong), "Sukiyaki" western (Japan)...there're some Filipino westerns too. I know, it is all one huge complicated western LOL!
March 07, 2011
Ah, gotcha! Now I just have to figure out a way to weasel that into my every day language because I love the term! :D
March 07, 2011
one of these days I am going to review an "adobo" western (Filipino) film just to shock everyone LOL!
March 07, 2011
Do you have any recommendations for an Oriental Western? Sounds like something I could watch with my parents, lol!
March 08, 2011
The most note-worthy oriental western (I have a review of it somewhere) is PEACE HOTEL with Chow Yun-Fat. However, if you want to see something more modern, THE GOOD THE BAD THE WEIRD is definitely one to see (a selection in Cannes). Think you may enjoy it! LOL!
March 07, 2011
You know, Depp is awesome, Verbinski is okay, Westerns are, well, eh... The fact that it's a computer generated western doesn't help much either. I did see "Gnomeo & Juliet" and it's officially put me off both computer animation and 3-D movies for a while.
March 07, 2011
Gnomeo and Juliet was that bad?! I thought it had some decent reviews, but I am skiping that one anyway....
March 07, 2011
No, it was mediocre, not bad. I'm just sick of shiny technology and films that rely on visuals rather than characters, story, themes, or narrative. I'm going back to my silent film collection.
: )
Speaking of which, illustrator, film director, and comic book artist Dave McKean did some awesome cubist paintings based on silent films. One is a slightly naughty picture of the robot Maria from "Metropolis" and the other is a cool montage inspired by "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari".
March 07, 2011
Well, honestly, so much of these CGI movies do rely on those things since their target audience are kids. But Rango seemed to have been written by someone who has gotten tired by those movies (Maybe Verbinski and Logan have kids).

you have any links?  send them to me privately.
March 07, 2011
Check out the quick tip I posted on "Gnomeo & Juliet". I also posted a new update in Movie Hype on comic book films. "Superman: Man of Steel" is looking intriguing, while "Preacher" promises to be a massive letdown.
March 07, 2011
Snyder always make an attempt to come up with movies that pay tribute to the source material, so he may be able to turn around the curse of superman movies; as long as they let him do his thing. "Preacher" would take a lot of effort to make it a credible adaptation.
March 07, 2011
And D.J. Caruso is not the guy to do it. Plus, turning "Preacher" into a film would require multiple films in order to be faithful to all of the sub-plots and many, many characters. One film would just result in a travesty.
March 07, 2011
What do you think of McKean's art?
March 07, 2011
I agree on "Preacher", it is going to take a lot of doing unless they focus on one story arc for one movie. DJ Caruso....nah....as for the art, I'll check my email shortly...
March 07, 2011
Awesome review. I saw this yesterday with my son and we both liked it. I agree with many of your takes and thought that the characters (especially the villains) were really interesting.
March 07, 2011
Thanks! I especially enjoyed the way the characters looked somewhat alike (as is the common rule to cartoons) and yet they seem so different. I hope we get to see more quality animated movies such as this in the future. Hope your son was old enough as to not get scared by some images; some kids in the theater I was in were screaming at times...
March 07, 2011
Thanks for the heads-up - I'm planning to see this in the next week. I was thinking about the headline "Gore Verbinski: From Ringu to Rango"...
March 07, 2011
LOL! Yeah, I went theater-hopping this weekend for the price of one; my friend's brother gave us passes. Now that is one awesome title- Rungu to Rango (why didn't I think of that?)
March 06, 2011
Your review only makes me want to see it more.
March 06, 2011
sweet!! I know you'll enjoy this one.
March 06, 2011
Excellent review I have been psyched to see "Rango" since I heard about it early last year it looks liked it could be one of the best animated films in along time. But from your review it sounds like there is a lot to be desired.
March 06, 2011
Thanks, Lopez, the film does try to have something fresh, it is ambitious enough for me to say that it took a chance and it succeeded; I am a sucker for westerns. However, the one thing that was somewhat missing was the fact that the direction stumbled at times, not too much to nit-pick, but still noticeable. The clever ideas, themes and style worked, but the glue holding all those things together just wasn't as strong as I wished it to be. How have you been, my friend? Give a holler when you post a new review, been very busy...
More Rango reviews
review by . March 05, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   Going into this film I had pretty low expectations. It’s released by Nickelodeon, stars Johnny Depp, who tends to be rather feast or famine, and is an animated film that’s not made by Pixar. Due to that latter fact, the probability of it sucking hard went up by, oh, about 300%. So imagine my surprise when I went in and actually liked the movie! Rango stars Depp as the title character, a chameleon who finds himself lost in the middle of the Nevada desert. A kindly, if somewhat …
review by . August 01, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****     When I first discovered that director Gore Verbinski was not going to continue his "Pirates of the Caribbean" saga to work on a new animated film called "Rango", I was a bit of a skeptic. And then, the film released, and I started hearing some good things about it; so I saw it. You can't tell much from trailers, but if you take a good luck as the ones for "Rango"; you'll notice that the animation alone may be enough reason for you to see it, especially if …
review by . March 15, 2011
From the minute I saw the trailer for this movie at True Grit I had high expectations for Rango. Now that I've finally seen it, my expectations were met and exceeded by how incredibly awesome this movie is. Rango is not only the first great movie of 2011, but it's one of the greatest animated films of the last 10, maybe even 20 years and one of the best non-disney/pixar/dreamworks animated films ever. I knew I was going to love this movie, but I had no idea that I would love it as much …
review by . March 06, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I’m wary when it comes to animated movies because I don’t know when I’m going to experience another Shrek (which was surprisingly awesome) or Hoodwinked (which is easily in the top three worst films I ever had to sit through, and takes the cake on worst kid movie I’ve ever had to endure) I had no intention of going to see Rango, but one of my aunts really wanted to see it for her birthday so to the movies my family and I went. On opening weekend. On a Saturday matinee. …
review by . March 27, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I think it's fair to say that CGI animated movies are really coming of age. As well as actual animation quality reaching new levels of brilliance, films such as How To Train Your Dragon and recent releases from Pixar, such as Up and Toy Story 3, have shown that you can add real emotional depth and take a less formulaic approach to storytelling without sacrificing good old-fashioned entertainment. We're now at a stage where movies that are primarily aimed and marketed at children are appreciated …
review by . March 05, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Gore Verbinski’s Rango is a treasure of an animated film – funny, smart, stylish, perfectly cast, and a technical achievement. Although its pratfall humor, bright colors, and usage of talking animals will almost certainly make it accessible to children, I suspect adults will find it more appealing, for they are far more likely to be familiar with the conventions of the movie western. This movie doesn’t miss a beat: It takes place …
review by . March 03, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   Every film product must satisfy it's audience. Since we're talking about an animated film, the goals are harder to obtain simply because you must project a rich and attractive story filled with funny moments and a detailed animated world. We've seen animated movies made for a smaller audience like, for example, The Illusionist from last year, which addresses adults and not underaged idealists. Rango is a movie for all ages because probably everyone will have a good time …
review by . March 05, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Love this Lizard!
RANGO   Written by John Logan   Directed by Gore Verbinski   Voices by Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty and Alfred Molina       Rango: No man can walk out on his own story.       As I waited for RANGO to start, I was forced to sit through a number of trailers for this year’s other expected animated features.  All are unnecessary sequels hoping to cash in on previous success and they all …
review by . March 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Rango, Is Best Suited For The 12 Year and Older Kids.
When my wife and I first seen the advertisement on the television we thought that it was really cute. If it were not for the fact that our daughter has also seen this preview, we probably never even thought twice about taking her to see it. What the preview doesn't show you is all of the senseless words that the chameleon( voice of Johnny Depp) uses throughout the whole movie. This computer animated western is supposed to be for the kids, but with this language the has transpired throughout …
Quick Tip by . August 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Absolutely delightful!!  It never ceases to amaze me at how fascinating good animation is; my daughter and I enjoyed this one -- the characters seemed true to life, the special effects were amazing, it was humorous and taught a good lesson too.  Johnny Depp was amazing (as usual) as the voice of Rango; in fact, all the characters were great and true to life.  A wonderful animated film with a great story line -- if you haven't seen it yet, please do!!      I'm …
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The film was produced by Nickelodeon Movies, Gore Verbinski's production company Blind Wink, and Graham King's GK Films. The CGI animation was created by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), marking the first feature animation done by ILM, generally a special effects company.[4]

During voice recording, the actors were given costumes and sets to "help give them the feel of the Wild West". Star Johnny Depp had a 20-day window in which he could voice his role as Rango, and the filmmakers scheduled the supporting actors so as they could do their scenes with Depp and interact with him.[5]

Verbinski said his attempt with Rango was to do a "small" film after the large-scale Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, but that he underestimated how painstaking and time-consuming animated filmmaking is.

An animated Western with a chameleon as the hero is an unlikely concept, butRangois a great film thanks to its witty mix of parody, intriguing characters, and sophisticated humor. When a common pet chameleon who's suffering from an identity crisis crashes headfirst into the stereotypically classic Western town of Dirt, he has the unique opportunity to completely reinvent himself. Dubbing himself Rango, the chameleon boasts of his own heroism and creates a spiral of deception that lands him an appointment as sheriff of a town in crisis. The question is, can one unprepared and completely unqualified chameleon possibly change this little town's future for the ...
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Movies, Animated Films, 2d, Paramount Pictures, Gore Verbinski Movies


Director: Gore Verbinski
Genre: Action, Adventure, Animation
Release Date: 4 March 2011 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
Screen Writer: John Logan
Runtime: 107 minutes
Studio: Paramount Pictures
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