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Stars: (Voices of) Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Ned Beatty, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Abigail Breslin, Harry Dean Stanton and Timothy Olyphant
Director: Gore Verbinski
Scriptwriter: John Logan
Industrial Light & Magic
Rating: PG for mock violence and crude humor
Running Length: 120 minutes
The posters for Rango have been in movie theaters for months. Children will want to see a chameleon as a hero, but in this film, you get tired of him pretty fast, even with the spectacular animation by Industrial Light & Magic. “Rango” is an animation film with the main voice of Johnny Depp as the chameleon. Now, the story is original, at least in the beginning, but after 15 minutes, you can start counting on fingers and toes just how many storylines from other media are here. High Noon?

Any Clint Eastwood spaghetti western, plus any plot that has a town held hostage by a wealthy and wicked man (here a turtle), or a town filled with assorted varmints (rodents) ala the “Star Wars” cantina, and so on. At the halfway mark, I ceased to care.
The story starts with the chameleon safely in a glass case and traveling with his human family. A bump  in the desert road, the car careening a bit, and the case is tossed onto the road, smashed, and chameleon is on his own. We have the dry and hot desert crossing, escape from a hawk, friends with an armadillo with a death wish, meeting the pretty and sarcastic girl, Beans (voice by Isla Fisher), and the rest of the town, which is an assortment of rodents and all with bulging eyes. Said chameleon chooses the name of “Rango,” gives himself quite a reputation and meets the evil mayor and the mayor’s gunslinger, a rattlesnake with a machine gun where his rattle should be. The story goes on for two hours, with narrow escapes, and more dialogue than a Shakespearean play. The fight isn’t about money, it is about water in the desert, and we get a lesson on ecology, too. 
I was disappointed in Rango. Johnny Depp’s voice is recognizable and yet, he whispers part of the time, Isla Fisher has an accent from somewhere in the Hemisphere, the rattlesnake is a bass and the only one silent is the overhead hawk. This is the problem, the audience is trying to place a voice in the crowd with the rodent, watching the green chameleon do his thing and figure out what is being discussed. It is a busy film.
Rango has so much detail in the animation, the audience is overwhelmed.  Industrial Light & Magic certainly got creative here. Despite the puzzling storyline and rambling dialogue, when a rattler comes at you with a gun on his tail, you pay attention. When the characters stop moving, they give speeches, and it takes most of the film to get to the basic of what has happened and what is valuable to the town. Not only that, but there is something called “The Spirit of the West” (Timothy Olyphant as Clint Eastwood?)  that comes to people who are down at heart. There is also enough gun fire for two more westerns and an army film. No wonder the film runs so long, and it is not a children’s film.
Copyright 2011 Marie Asner




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