Review for Rango
Just an experiment: friends suggested film reviews on myUMBC
Movie Review: “Rango”
There’s plenty to chose from in the CGI animation market this film season. There’s Mars Needs Moms (technically motion-capture); Hop; Gnomeo and Juliet; Rango; and an upcoming Smurfs: 3D movie (July 29th, 2011). But for now, which of these films appear to stand out above the rest?
Rango, although distributed by Nickelodeon Studios, is animated and rendered by Industrial Light and Magic (the special effects studio that powers PIXAR) and is the first animated feature film to be created by ILM. The film opens with a shot of the titular chameleon acting out various cinematic scenarios with an assortment of random household objects: the torso and legs of a nude Barbie-like doll, a dead insect, and a wound-up plastic fish. An aspiring thespian that laments his mundane existence, he is immediately thrust from his barren terrarium and finds himself in the sweltering heat of the Mojave Desert when a road trip with his owners goes awry.
After encountering a wise but cryptic armadillo and evading the clutches of a desert hawk, the reptile finds himself in an Old West town named “Dirt”. Realizing that “blending in” with his surroundings is the key to survival in the desert, the chameleon does more than simply fade into the scenery—he adopts the alias of “Rango”, a gun-slinging fellow who “killed three men with one bullet” and is the brother of “Rattlesnake Jake” (it…it makes sense in context…), one of the film’s antagonists who’s gunshot is almost as deadly as his venomous bite.
All the while that Rango is enjoying all that his exaggerated role can offer him in this change of scenery, a young female lizard by the name of “Beans” uncovers a desert-wide drought that endangers her father’s ranch. As the town’s citizens realize that the drought is far worse than they had previously judged, Rango is declared sheriff of the town due to his almost god-like aptitude for playing the part (literally) of the hero. As Rango attempts to prove himself of his role, as well as to finally solidify a consistent identity for him, a conspiracy with political roots is revealed. In this smart deconstruction of Westerns and, among all things, an affectionate reference to Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, Rango manages to combine a formula reminiscent of PIXAR’s Toy Story and breathe genre-savvy life into it.
On one level, Rango is one third drama, one third action, and one third comedy. On a deeper level, it is a meditation on identity and existentialism that is common—though arguably overused— in many films today.
It is helpful to keep in mind however, that although the film is rated PG, it is not exactly what many people would call a “young children’s film”. There are quite a few sexual double-entendres; many gunshots; and over four uses of the words “damn” and “hell”, among other things that may worry parents. Of course, none of this bothers me at all, but it does bother plenty of parents that—prepare to be shocked <sarcasm>--an animated film dares to have non-cute animal characters, and actual western conventions such as gunshots, smoking, racist name-calling and death in a western movie! How dare they try to not talk down to the audience! To see what I mean, just check out some of the comments below the article of its review at Common Sense Media:
As for my friends and I, we can only hope that more films will follow suit. No one in their right mind would say that live-action cinema was “for adults only”: there’s plenty of demographics and genres that live-action cinema is free to explore in ways that are taboo for animated films.
Animated films don’t have to be kids’-only-fare, but it doesn’t have to be only for adults either.
Although a bit formulaic at times, it manages to keep all of the film’s acts balanced. Dialogue is well written and visuals are stunningly detailed.
3 ½ out of 4 stars