Director: Gore Verbinski
Johnny Depp has often been called a chameleon for his ability to embody vastly different roles. Clearly, Paramount took this description literally, as Depp stars as the Hawaiian-shirted reptilian Rango. To say that animated anthropomorphic movies have been common in recent years would be something of an understatement, meaning that new animated films really have to strive to stand out, or risk being forgotten. Rango certainly does the former.
Rango’s plot seems as though it could’ve come from any other cutesy animal animation. Rango is a domesticated pet lizard who finds himself stranded in a desert town. He assumes a Clint Eastwood-esque persona, and tasks himself with solving the mystery of the water shortage plaguing the town. However, the artistry that has gone into making Rango renders the plot, simplistic or not, almost irrelevant.
The Nickelodeon production tag will no doubt carry a stigma, but Rango is unusual in that it makes little effort to balance the humour between adult and juvenile; instead, it aims almost completely at an older audience, with plenty of black humour throughout (the tombstone of the previous sheriff reads ‘Thursday to Saturday’), and numerous film references (at one point Rango is thrown onto the car of Depp’s Raoul Duke from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas).
Quite often, when a known live-action star voices an animated character, the result is less than fantastic, a recent example being Seth Rogen in Paul. However, Depp is exceptional as Rango. He sounds unrecognisable, and captures the dual-aspects of Rango’s character perfectly.
Accompanying Rango as he sinks into the ‘guacamole of his own deception’ is a near-whimsical trip into a fantastic, original world which fuses the old Wild West with Mexican owl mariachi bands. It’s a smart, loving homage to Spaghetti Westerns, and one not to be missed.