Director: Gore Verbinski
Stars: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Timothy Olymphant, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Ray Winstone
You’d think a “kids’ movie” that leaves children dumbfounded shouldn’t be considered an artistic victory; the thing is, Rango isn’t really worthy of the rugrat cinema tag. Sure, it’s animated, and Johnny Depp voices a lovable chameleon who embarks on a crazy adventure and would look right at home on any pre-schooler’s lunchbox. But none of that hides the fact that Rango’s humor is adult, the animation is more freaky than cuddly, and director Gore Verbinski’s employment of western tropes go right over the tiny heads of youngsters.
When the films of Sergio Leone and Deadwood come to mind during an animated film, it’s definitely geared more for the older crowd, and that’s quite alright. Besides, kids are the reason why derivative crap like Hop makes so much money; we grown-ups are overdue for a cartoon-ish romp to call our own.
Depp brings tons of life to the titular character, a Hawaiian-shirt-rocking lizard who becomes a reluctant Clint Eastwood type after he stumbles into an Old West town, populated with other talking creatures and a landscape straight out of Unforgiven. Rango ultimately saves the day, of course, yet it’s a predictable turn of events rendered superbly enjoyable by left-field humor, striking character designs, and a uniform sense of unbridled imagination. The kids’ miss is our gain.