Monday, April 4, 2011

Movie Review: 'Rango' is Resplendent

Rango movie poster, property of Nickelodeon and Paramount.

I have been absolutely dying to see this movie.  Ever since I saw the very first trailer in theaters, I knew Rango was a must-see film.  In those brief minutes I could tell that the animation was phenomenal, the story-telling was bold, and that Nickelodeon Pictures was really stepping up it's game.  What a shame that the circumstances of my life would leave me waiting an entire month after it's opening to see it!

So I really don't know what I can say about this movie that hasn't already been said.  Roger Ebert, one of my favorite film critics, wrote, "Rango is some kind of a miracle: An animated comedy for smart moviegoers, wonderfully made, great to look at, wickedly satirical, and (gasp!) filmed in glorious 2-D. Its brilliant colors and startling characters spring from the screen and remind us how very, very tired we are of simpleminded little characters bouncing around dimly in 3-D."

And I agree with him 100%!  So many "family" movies these days seem to have been cookie-cuttered out of sugar cookie dough then quickly slapped with some brightly colored frosting and rainbow sprinkles.  The end result is a sugary mess of emptiness with no nutritional value to speak of.  Yet Rango seems to think that maybe, just maybe, kids are ready for some real food.

The story is of a lizard who enters a town in desperate need of a hero.  They are living through a horrible drought of water, feeling pressure from many foes.  Folks are selling off their land, they are tormented by hawks and snakes, and they are beginning to lose faith.  But when Rango comes in, talking big and (accidentally) defeating one of their foes, he becomes their sheriff.  He then begins to unite the townspeople in a quest to bring their water back, all while grappling with the existential question: who am I?

The film, for the most part, has the look and feel of a classic western complete with gunfights, and saloons, and tobacco.  Some people have an issue with that.  Someone I know wrote on Facebook that Rango was the worst movie she had ever seen.  She said she wanted to walk out of the theater because she found the movie immoral, which is simply not true.  Is it gritty? Yes.  Is there some violence?  Yes.  Are the characters a bit rough around the edges?  Yes.  They say things like "hell" and "damn."  Some of them smoke cigars or make off-colored jokes.  They don't pretend to be perfect, but they all have a value that I feel many would admire:  they have faith and the strength to carry on.

And it's a shame that some people would get so caught up in their haughty habits of passing righteous judgment, that they would somehow be oblivious to the religious overtones.  Right from the get-go Rango encounters a prophet-like character named Roadkill.  He's an aged armadillo on a sacred mission of sorts who speaks in metaphors about life and destiny and death.  Then we meet the townspeople who are passing through many trials and tribulations, yet still clinging desperately to the hope that their salvation will come.  In one scene they even pray to The Spirit of the West for their deliverance.  And Rango, in a beautifully otherworldly scene, gets to stand in the presence of The Spirit of the West who reminds him that no man can leave his own story.  Rango returns to the town to be the hero he was meant to be.

All this elevated impact while being incredibly funny, totally unexpected and off-beat, wildly action-packed, and sparkling with visual panache.  Rango is easily one of my favorite animated movies of all time.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

agreed. rango is really really good.


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