It’s all the raw, untamed, grit of a western combined with eye popping animation to make possibly one of the strangest films about an anthropomorphic reptile in the old west ever seen. His name is Rango (Johnny Depp) and he’s a fish out of water into a tall glass of Texas tea. Just so no one is confused by my colorful language, he is actually a pet chameleon with an identity disorder who after one particular traffic incident, (or perhaps a blessing in disguise) is literally thrown from his small habitat and into the vast surrounding desert.
Rango arrives in a town called “Dirt” where the townsfolk don’t take kindly to strangers. Where the community lives day to day with a dwindling water supplies and are constantly harassed by outlaws and vicious hawk, Rango becomes a hero and soon enough the town sheriff when he accidentally defeats the hawk. Though beloved by the people, how long can Rango masquerade as a self proclaimed legend? Just leave it to some shady characters to put the town into true peril and ultimately put Rango to the test.
Surprisingly there’s a great deal of clever storytelling going on here. Though I might have built it up to sound like a “This town ain’t big enough fer the two of us” western, most of the action is actually driven when the town’s water supply mysteriously vanishes, which results in Rango assembling a posse. So really it’s a whole mish mash of different types of classic western stories. It’s a little bit The Searchers, a little bit High Noon, and everything in between.
It took me a little while to adjust to this off-the-wall “Kids movie”, but once I did I was cruising like a ghost rider on the storm. The characters are inventive, with a thieving naked mole rat voiced by Harry Dean Stanton and Ned Beatty as the town’s two-faced tortoise mayor to name a few. The laughs are equally inspired but it’s the rapid fire pop culture references that steal the show. I mean there’s references of everything from Grapes of Wrath, to Jurassic Park, to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and of course a few obvious nods to the “The Man With No Name” trilogy, this is the kind of movie where you blink once and you could miss six different jokes.
Although this movie claims to be “PG” never have I seen a PG rating pushed so fearlessly. Mention of a man’s prostate? Or how about a line like “I think they’re thespians.” with the response of, “I thought that was illegal in seven states!” Wow, and my jaw nearly dropped when a character said “I once found a human spinal column in my fecal excrement.” This movie may look like it’s for kids but it certainly doesn’t sugar coat anything.
Wonderfully animated by Industrial Light & Magic, Rango is classic saturday matinee fun. It’s a weird and wild one, but worth seeing if you like me have been upset by the definite lack of intriguing movies to open up in theaters lately.