Friday, March 04, 2011

RANGO - Quirky Wild West Spoof

RANGO (animated Wild West spoof)
Cast: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone, Timothy Olyphant and Ned Beatty
Director: Gore Verbinski
Screenplay: John Logan, Gore Verbinski and James Byrkit
Time: 105 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Rango (Johnny Depp) and Beans (Isla Fisher) meet in the desert

PREAMBLE: Rango had me at its trailer. Its conflicted chameleon 'hero' looked so visually arresting and 'cooly' quirky that I told myself that there was no way I was going to miss this Spaghetti Western spoof. Of course, the fact that it has Johnny Depp among its voice cast - and is directed by Gore Verbinski of Pirates Of The Caribbean fame - helps a good deal, too.

Plus, the visuals are so 'life-like' and detailed that they are uncanny. Sitting through the movie, however, I get the feeling that Verbinski tends to be too cocky with his creations and drags the story a bit too long.

THE SKINNY: Rango (Depp) is a chameleon being kept in a terrarium as a family pet. During a trip across the Mojave Desert, Rango accidentally gets thrown out of the vehicle and onto the road. One thing leads to another, he meets a farm lass named Beans (Isla Fisher) and winds up in the sun-drenched gun-slinging town of Dirt, a lawless outpost populated by wily and whimsical creatures.

Being used to blending in to the environment, the boastful lizard in red Hawaiian shirt suddenly finds that he stands out among Dirt's critters - as a gun-slinging hero! Welcomed as the last hope the town has been waiting for, Rango is made the new Sheriff by its tortoise mayor (Ned Beatty) and now he gets the chance to be the hero he had earlier pretended to be.

HITS AND MISSES: We get the notion that we are going to be in for a fun time when a quartet of Mariachi owls (above) appear at the opening to help 'heighten the suspense' of the story, saying: "Here in the Mojave Desert, the animals have had millions of years to adapt to the harsh environment, but the lizard, he's going to die!" Later, when our chameleon protag arrives in Dirt, a young rodent girl (Abigail Breslin) quips: "You're a stranger. Strangers don't last long here."

Indeed, the characters are well portrayed, with each individual creature having its own personality and traits. Depp gives Rango almost the same recklessness as Capt Jack Sparrow, only that Rango is much more vulnerable and conflicted; Fisher provides Beans with a cloak of enigmatic charm while Bill Nighy is suitably 'hissable' as Rattlesnake Jake.

From the poster and trailer, Rango may appear like kiddie entertainment, but some elements may be abit scary for younger kids. However, for toon lovers of all ages, this spoof on the Wild Wild West is fresh - not original but good old stuff in a fresh new light.

THE LOWDOWN: Rango spells quirky, rollicking fun.


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