Director - Gore Verbanski, 2011

Johnny Depp voices a docile and domestic chameleon; an animal expert in changing its’ appearance to conform to its’ surroundings, and what does this particular chameleon specialise in? That’s right, acting. Or rather as the storyline evolves, pretending, though essentially what’s the difference? Rango struggles with a rather compatible case of identity loss that initiates with a harmless scene of Shakespearian quality drama in the comfort of his own tank, where the audience realise his innocent affinity for theatre as a means of escapism from his meagre existence, coupled with the self-belief he is destined for bigger n’ better things.

The plot borrows from A Bug’s Life, where our arthropods and mammals are confronted with unlikely fake heroes, injecting much needed hope into a struggling society. Rango is that very hero, blindly making his way with big talk and a pinch of luck up the town’s hierarchy. There is particularly quirky and creative animation from George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic, the first time a strictly special effects company have done a feature film.

Gore Verbanski is renowned for his nightmarishly pretentious and mind numbingly boring “finding-of-the-self scenes” in the over-long and turgid Pirates of the Caribbean 3, and my heart sank like a ship when an almost identical scene revealed itself towards the finale of Rango’s journey. It’s no surprise Depp is our protagonist in both films, and in both films finds himself hallucinating before being whisked away on his back by a crustacean of some sort. In POTC3, it happens to be ROCKS THAT HAVE TURNED INTO CRABS?! And right here in Rango we have woodlice. Practice clearly helps Gore, as the scene here is admittedly much, much better, yet somehow still provides me with an unhealthy dose of the heebie-jeebies. Maybe it’s simply the overwhelming sense of deja-vu.

But either way, the emotion lies in the fact Rango has just been rumbled by super-scary-slithery Rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy). He utters “who am I?…I’m nobody” and begins his transcendence to enlightenment under a cracking piece of distorted ambient guitar music in the style of Mark Knopfler. However after tenuous research, the piece in question turns out to be “The Finale” by Danny Elfman from The Kingdom…Hans Zimmer’s score is heartbreakingly unoriginal and clichéd, playing solely to the Ennio Morricone legacy of popular western films and stealing profusely from “The Man With The Harmonica” from Once Upon a Time in The West.

There is an owl mariachi band providing commentary by way of song much like the mice in Babe, and as a device they are humorous and nifty, with their insistence that Rango will come to his demise. However the film as a whole isn’t really that funny at all! Which was a surprise. It’s actually quite deep, dark and not really for the kiddies. All the different components work together, and it’s a good effort. The bar has been raised, the best animation of 2011 thus far.

– James Godwin, April 2nd, 2011

Copyright © 2011. James Godwin. All rights reserved.