Rango- A Review in Retrospect

Once again I dust off the old blog, which has no doubt grown lonely in binary solitude. This time, however, I do so not with the intention of reviewing some current movie taking the box office by meager September-revenue storm, but to also dust off an old favorite of mine. Perhaps not quite so old as to be called a classic (though I suspect that will be the case as the years creep forward), today’s movie to remember is an animated genre mash-up from the year 2011: a comedy western called Rango. Directed by Gore Verbinski (of Pirates of the Caribbean Fame) and starring Johnny Depp as the eponymous anthropomorphic Chameleon on an existential quest for his own personal identity, the film twists the talking animal cartoon formula with the conventions of the spaghetti western and Joseph Campbellian “heroes journey.” The result is an enormously clever homage and dissection of the long-celebrated genre that bursts at the stitches in it’s boots with energy, imagination, humor and thrills. Depp turns in one of his most electrified and likable performances since the first “Pirates” (bolstered by the great writing behind the character). He is joined by a colorful cast of supporting characters (Isla Fisher and Abigail Breslin oFer┬ásome of the standouts), a Greek chorus of guitar-shredding Mariachi Owls and chilling antagonists in the form of Ned Beatty and Bill Nighy, all brought to life by gorgeous animation that puts the cinematography of several live action movies to shame. Finally, the movie is downright hilarious, with jokes both detailed, clever and crass ranging from one-liners, well placed inflections and sight gags sprinkled throughout. As a huge fan of Gore Verbinski’s sensibilities as a film maker, it brings me no small amount of joy to see a film like this shine through the last few years of disappointments with him at the helm. I certainly hope he finds another passion project soon, before Rango becomes known as the last good movie he ever made. That said, if ever there were a swan song for the success of a talented film maker, this is the one.