This is the story of a humble chameleon that is destined for greater things, being put on his true calling by a freak accident that got him literally thrown out the window of his comfort zone, and into the big bad real world, the canvas in which he will bungle and stumble into recognition. Director Gore Verbinski is probably well known in recent years for this Pirates of the Caribbean action adventure trilogy, and he brings that swashbuckling sense of storytelling into the animated realm with Industrial Light and Magic's maiden venture into a full length animated feature film.
But to offer up some guarantees chartering into unknown waters, Verbinski brings onboard some of his pirates alumni to provide that A-list voice cast for animated characters that don't look at all a tad adorable - imagine selling a rattlesnake or a chameleon as a soft toy - providing that additional oomph that this is no run of the mill venture to test waters, but a serious attempt at great storytelling with great visuals, and its Western movie homage fires on all cylinders to bring about a rip roaring comical adventure that's suited more for the young adult and upwards demographics.
There's Johnny Depp playing the titular character, a motormouth who daydreams of being a somebody, and finds that in this strange new world with the town called Dirt that he discovers in the middle of the Mojave Desert, comes an opportunity to live out his dreams of a badass with a reputation of ridding his opponents with just one bullet off his sixshooter. The town folks lap up all his stories when Rango accidentally finishes off one of the town's greatest predators, and got rewarded with being the new Sheriff in town. While he knows he's a complete fluke, that doesn't stop Rango from living up the attention, with deadlier foes all coming in the horizon given the food chain concept of there always being another predator just around the corner, especially with the absence of something higher up.
But for those expecting a simple tale of Rango overcoming such obstacles in his path in his road to enlightenment, you'll find that expectation soundly busted with the same sense of complexity that Verbinski brings to the Pirates films, where the plot here tangents off in all possible intertwining angles, where the villains are more political and the problems faced by the town of Dirt being more macro than micro and quite contemporary too with the reminder on the scarcity of fresh water that our real world at large face, calling for attention to be paid to the plot crafted by John Logan, Gore Verbinski and James Ward Byrkit, that rewards at the end when they converge.
Fans of Western films will undoubtedly identify with the myriad of homage paying moments in Rango, culminating in the appearance of the Spirit of the West (Timothy Olyphant), who without a doubt resembled one of the greatest Western characters played by Clint Eastwood in the Sergio Leone films. I thought it would be a treat if Eastwood had lent his voice, but it was not to be. Still, the voice acting of the likes of Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Ned Beatty and Ray Winstone are nothing to scoff about.
The animation is top notch and will give Pixar, Disney and those ahead in the game a firm run for the money. You'll feel the heat and parched landscapes of the desert, coupled with texture rich creatures created. Rango also struck a fine balance between dramatic, dialogue heavy moments with its kinetic big set action sequences, and Verbinski once again underscores his brilliance in creating a large action adventure, with one of my favourites here being the aerial and land battles midway through the film with Rango and his ragtag gang running away from adversaries who utilizes the flight of the bats as an aerial threat. Really edge of your seat, exciting stuff conjured.
For those who have enough of animation dwelling on the cutesy nature pandering to the younger audiences and with that ulterior motive to sell toys, Rango will be that breath of fresh air to reinforce the notion that animation can be for adults to enjoy as well, if rightly done with the right ingredients used to tell a good story with great, zany comedy to top it all off. Highly recommended, and this strikes early gold into my shortlist of one of the best films thus far this year.