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Rango Print E-mail
Written by Selina Pearson   
Friday, 04 March 2011 08:50
Director: Gore Verbinski
Cast: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin
Certificate: PG

From the director of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (hurrah!) and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (erm, perhaps not), Rango is an animated oddity. The trailers were cryptic to say the least - hello, clockwork fish - but Gore Verbinski's latest effort is an excellent existential Western. Sadly, there aren't more wind-up fish.

Johnny Depp, in his best Hunter S Thompson, voices the titular chameleon who is thrown out of his cushy-but-dull tank into a story straight out of a Sergio Leone film. A bizarre conversation with a shamanistic armadillo about metaphorically crossing the road leads to the physical quest for water. Tripping across the desert though Dali-esque dreams, the lizard finds himself in Dirt, a one-horse town peopled by reptiles and small mammals (but no horse). A stranger, he adopts the tough-guy persona of Rango, constructed as a result of watching too many films. He is taken on as Sheriff by the mayor to tackle Dirt's many ills. And there are many ills.

Rango is a bizarre take on the traditional spaghetti Western; its closest relatives are the early Westerns of Robert Rodriguez. Although pitched and marketed as a kids film, there is a lot more here for discerning adults. The slapstick and mariachi owl band will entertain kids, but it’s doubtful they’ll make the connection with Chinatown or the other post-modern film references, let alone the appearance of The Spirit of the West (Timothy Olyphant doing Man with No Name) in a golf buggy.

The screenplay and characters are almost as bright and colourful as the film itself, which has mercifully not been forced into 3D. Thanks to the crisp animation, you'll be able to see every louse on each mangy rabbit. Coen Brothers regular Roger Deakins oversees the exceptional visuals, adding an extra layer of real to the CG. Hans Zimmer's music matches it, with a distinct air of Ennio Morricone. The voice cast is great, particularly Johnny Depp, who sports an American accent the likes of which haven't been heard since Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

The only thing the film suffers from is that it isn't entirely sure who its target audience is: the Desperado-esque feel of the film is jarred by the child-friendly level of violence, but it may be a bit too out-there for the average five year old. Having said that, most kids would benefit from an introduction to existential Westerns, and parents will be grateful of the departure from the usual dull childish fare, or just a departure from logic altogether.


Rango's attempt to catch a broad audience means it misses a few tricks, but it's a fantastic addition to the existential Western canon. A veritable Sergio Chameleone.


Your rating

( 3 Votes ) 

  • abigail breslin
  • clint eastwood
  • gore verbinski
  • isla fisher
  • johnny depp
  • pirates of the caribbean
  • ray winstone
  • sergio leone
  • the man with no name
  • timothy olyphant