Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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Film #256


Rango is an ordinary chameleon who accidentally winds up in the town of Dirt, a lawless outpost in the Wild West in desperate need of a new sheriff.

Year 1, Day 255

BEFORE: For today’s film, I’ve opted to return to my leftover chain and watch Rango rather than another advanced screening. This was supposed to be the second non-Disney/Pixar film of the chain but The Secret of Kells took it’s place. Now I’ll be able to see Gore Verbinski (of Pirates of the Caribbean fame) take a stab at the animated world with frequent collaborator Johnny Depp. This was highly regarded by critics and even won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature last year (granted, Cars 2 was the competition) so I’m excited to see what’s in store.

AFTER: A guaranteed way for me to like a film is if it contains a whole bunch of references and homages to the rest of cinema. Rango has a plethora of them but it also has some great action and tension in addition to a classic western story. If it weren’t for a few character flaws, the rating for this film would be as high as the noonday sun.

References serve two purposes: humor and comprehension. While I like references as much as the next guy (see what I did there) and people are often annoyed when I cite them constantly in conversation, but they do provide a sort of comic relief. If you’re familiar with the film/joke being referenced there’s a moments hesitation as you make the connection, followed by a chuckle to loud guffaw. That connection to the material is what makes it funny (at least for me) and also helps with comprehension. What I mean by that is it allows for a quicker understanding of what’s going on. Key plot points are usually referenced at least three times throughout a film in case you don’t catch it the first time. By including references it makes things easier to get the first time around. So when it comes time for some terrific action scenes, ones worthy of the director of Pirates of the Caribbean, you can sit back and just take the film in. Like The Adventures of Tintin, the visuals were breathtaking and felt like a live-action film; especially with landscape shots and close ups on extremely detailed textures.

Heretofore (my ethics teacher says we should use this word more often) I’ve only mentioned positives. And overall the film was very good, but some story problems were present. The first, and biggest, issue I had was with the four owls that served as narrators and musical accompaniments. There was completely no point to having these characters. The narration they provide, as brief cutaways to transition between scenes, is a bit childish and stupid (I’m on a roll today). Back when I watched Blade Runner, I remember reading many people were upset when the studio forced Harrison Ford to record a voice over explaining everything that was happening on screen. People objected and hated this decision. In Rango, they voluntarily do the same thing. We don’t need the owls to explain what’s happening or serve as transitions. And then there’s Rango’s (Johnny Depp) character. His development from beginning to end wasn’t bad, but it could have been better. He starts as a naïve lizard, unaware of the world around him when he’s thrust into the middle of the desert. Quickly he changes into a confident, heroic figure who is made the town sheriff. The change was very abrupt and took me by surprise. You quickly get over this abruptness and just file it under “acceptable” and just get lost in the rest.

Rango was a great animated film, action film, and western film. Gore Verbinski delivers an entertaining and exciting film, one worthy of it’s Best Animated Feature nomination, even the win despite a few character issues but for the most part they’re excusable. A great entry by a non-Pixar company (Industrial Light and Magic). Recommended for any fan of film, action, or if you just want a fun way to spend an hour and a half.

RATING: 4 out of 5