Nanjing Night Net

Animated western love letter has more for adults

Sheriff Rango leads a posse in search of water-stealing bad guys in Gore Verbinski’s animated feature Rango.Rango (PG)
Nanjing Night Net

When will we stop trying to fool ourselves that kids movies are expressly for kids these days when movies like this clever and entertaining celebration of the western are directed at those who have long since cast off childhood.

Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski joins forces Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), which may explain a glaring Star Wars reference, to produce the George Lucas-created company’s first stab at animation.

Rango, like Blazing Saddles, exposes a deep, abiding love for and knowledge of the western.

Verbinski, screenwriter John Logan and composer Hans Zimmer have developed a tapestry that’s stitched together using references to every great movie to come along during the western’s heyday.

The dialogue incorporates lines (or variations) from the past, shot selection mimics classic moments and the music utilizes recognizable cues and, at times, imitates entire themes.

All of the Western motifs and clichés are employed, from the showdown at high noon to the lonely tumbleweed being hurried along by a dusty wind. And even The Man With No Name makes a cameo, with Timothy Olyphant doing a passable Clint Eastwood imitation.

Rango (voiced by Johnny Depp) is a chameleon living in a home aquarium until an accident strands beside a highway in the middle of a desert.

Seeking water, he strikes out into the forbidding territory and finds Dirt – the town of Dirt. It’s a miniature version of an old west frontier settlement for talking animals and Rango fits right in.

There are badgers, toads, owls, and possums. The mayor (Ned Beatty) is a turtle. The most fearsome gunslinger is a snake with a gattling gun in place of a rattle .

Rango establishes his reputation as a hero through a combination of bluster and happenstance. In a showdown with a hawk, he gets lucky when an accident brings down a disused water tower on top of the bird.

However, Dirt’s problems are not solved.

As the new sheriff, it falls to Rango to discover what has happened to the town’s water supply, which has dried up, leaving fields and mouths equally parched.

It’s all good fun and quite entertaining but not as much as the makers would have hoped, it’s a little paunchy for a ‘kids’ film and a few of the younger ones at my viewing were restless as the comic elements went on pause for a while.

It also doesn’t help that the constant referencing to other films would fly straight through to the keeper past younger viewers up to their teens, if not older.

Although Rango’s primary mode is western, it occasionally branches out to touch on other famous moments. One high octane scene begins with bats replacing Apocalypse Now gunships to the tune of Ride of the Valkyries before transforming into a version of the aforementioned iconic Star Wars death star trench.

The voice acting is pretty damn cool, with Johnny Depp taking top billing as the occasionally wisecracking Rango. He, maybe appropriately for his character, has a chameleon-like voice and is not easily recognisable.

Support comes from an eclectic group that includes Isla Fisher (as Rango’s tart-tongued love interest Beans), Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Ray Winstone, Ned Beatty, and Bill Nighy as Rattlesnake Jake.

Rango’s adventures are related by a Greek, make that mariachi, chorus of birds, playing appropriate music and wondering out loud how long it will be until Rango dies.

So there you have it a kids movie for adults that entertains but not quite as much as its aim.

Still the value is there, though parents may want to take something to keep the younger kiddies amused when the dizzying action sequences and sight gags take a breather.

Rating: 7

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.