The best two movies I’ve seen at the cinema so far this year are Westerns, True Grit and Rango.
In the latter, Johnny Depp provides the voice of the title character, a pet chameleon unceremoniously thrown from the back seat of a car travelling in the Nevada desert. The opening scenes set the tone for the rest of the movie; the film makers don’t shy away from their reference points, with nods to Hunter S. Thompson, Spaghetti Westerns and Chuck Jones on display. Most of these and some of the dialogue will be lost on younger audiences although they will still laugh at the visual humour.
After an amazing series of set pieces our ‘hero’ wanders through the desert to a town called Dirt. Here he is greeted by an odd assortment of characters, the look and personality of whom are much grittier than in the average animated movie.
Rango is named as the towns new Sheriff and he revels in his new role. There is a problem though, the town water supply is drying up and no one knows why… Rango decides to investigate.
At every turn, Rango and his actions are narrated in song by an on screen mariachi band, much like the mice in ‘Babe’ but less annoying.
This is the best thing Gore Verbinski has done since Mousehunt. Everyone involved clearly has great affection for spaghetti westerns, flagged so blatantly during the ‘Spirit of the West’ scene.
The movie is a stunning visual feast. The characters and backgrounds are photorealistic but not in that horrible ‘Dinosaur ‘or unnecessary close-up way we’ve become used to in so many CGI movies over the last few years. The detail is not there to show off the studios R & D talents (feather detail in ‘Guardians…’ perhaps..?).
The animation is excellent and the quality of design and texture in the animal characters is exceptional. They are incredibly gritty and almost ugly, much like the array of extras in the original spaghetti westerns. The sets and backgrounds wouldn’t be out of place in a big budget Hollywood western and the depiction of heat through dust, haze and lighting leaves you feeling as parched as the characters. I noticed in the credits that Roger Deakin’s was the cinematography consultant; the man can do no wrong.
The voice talent are perfectly cast; it would be unfair to single anyone out but Depp is obviously enjoying himself, Ned Beatty follows up his sinister ‘Lotso’ from Toy Story 3 with another great turn and Bill Nighy as Rattlesnake Jake is outstanding.
There’s an underlying environmental message here but we’re not being beaten over the head with it which is a refreshing change.
Not quite Pixar but almost as good as… and that’s high praise indeed.
Good Fun: 4