After two days of release the word on this movie has been pretty positive, in fact many of my friends on Twitter (especially @EthanRunt) have been praising this movie to the sky, so this definitely upped my interest in the film (I had not been won over by the trailers and Gore Verbinski rarely inspires that much hope for me). Lets just say the movie did not meet my expectations. We join a confused chameleon named Rango (Depp) on his quest to bring law to a frontier style town populated with animals.
This film baffled me from the get go, we are first introduced to Rango as some sort of thespian. He lives in cage and performs shows with the inanimate objects that litter the cage, it was at this point I found my first annoyance with the film, Depp is unbearable, his nasal whine that persists throughout the movie isn’t kooky or endearing, it’s just annoying. The character has a hero complex, though he is not sure why and in all honesty, neither am I. I did not understand why Rango was supposed to interest me as a character, I didn’t understand his drive or why his personal quest within the movie, in fact I found him dull and a rehash of various other children’s heroes but with less of a likeability factor. With such a dull leading character I began to feel disconnected, but I still held out hope for the supporting cast. I was wrong to hold out hope, there are no memorable characters from this movie; they all just seem to meld into one, none of them stood out at all. I always find animation to be a very character driven art form (think about how important the characters are to every Pixar movie) and this film really suffers from how bland its cast seems to be.
The story has a lot of ideas going on at once, it wants to be a western but at the same time it wants to have a lot of comedy and whilst those two genres are fighting it out, a strange surreal subplot about identity and spirituality is bubbling under the surface. The film borrows plot elements from Spaghetti Westerns, Chinatown and of course Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (with an animated cameo from Hunter S. Thompson at one point); to pay homage to these classics is fine but to mash them together sloppily makes the movie a mess, mixing Hunter S. Thompson with Clint Eastwood just didn’t work for me, I didn’t see the point. I’m not quite sure how kids will react to the plot, at my screening there were several children running up and down the aisles and one boy loudly proclaimed “Daddy, this is a very boring film”, most of laughs (which there were few of) came from the adults, though I could tell that the film was grating on them too.
On to the high point of the movie, the animation is spectacular. This is probably one of the most gorgeous animated films I’ve ever seen, the character designs are superb and the backgrounds look incredibly realistic. It has a bold and original style which really separates it from every other animated film out there, this clearly marks it as an early front runner for Best Animated Film at next years Academy Awards (though I would be very happy if something better comes along). I think DreamWorks could definitely learn a thing or two from the animators who worked on Rango as it has easily beaten all of their films visually.
I will watch Rango again when it comes to DVD, as I did see it in a cinema full of restless children and I wasn’t looking forward to it too much. As it stands now I find it to be a pretty messy movie with elements of good ideas sprinkled through out the movie. It’s gorgeous to look at but it’s pretty dull to watch.