Rango’s Fandango Tango

I have seen some strange movies in my time.  You have to understand I grew up watching the Twilight Zone, so I know strange when I see it—– and Rango is got to be the strangest animated film posing as a children’s movie I have ever seen.  It is cast as a Western, albeit a Western set in modernity, so there is a tiny 19th century style town called Dirt, and the Mayor has a plot and a plan to buy up all the land and build Phoenix.  I told you it was strange, but then the mayor is turtle who plays golf.   

Basically the problem is he is trying to run people off by controlling the water—- all of it.     Which is where Rango comes in, a hip chameleon played by Kentucky’s own Johnny Depp, no stranger to really strange roles  (think his breakthrough with Edward Scissor Hands).   How does he end up in Dirt?  Well he literally falls off the back of a vehicle on the only highway that runs through this desert valley, and wanders into town.   Before this little trauma he had a pleasant life in a fish tank with an orange plastic fish and half of a maniken, or in this case a womanikin.  Rango somehow gets chosen by Mr. Mayor to be the new sheriff, and he meets a woman named Beans (I kid you not), who doesn’t know beans about running a ranch and is prone to catatonic states when stressed.  Of course it is love at first sight when Rango shows up.

For an hour and 47 moments (including some really dull stretches) we are regaled with the old Western tale of how a sheriff tries to clean up a town, find water, and generally be everyone’s hero.   Oh yes, and there is a Hispanic chorus telling us along the way what is happening and may happen— four owls making up a mariachi band with sombreros.  You have to wonder what the script writers were smoking.  This is like a Tim Burton Halloween movie on LSD.   

Not to worry, Johnny Depp’s monologues are hilarious, almost as funny as in the first Pirates movie, and there are some truly comical scenes in this movie, most of them involving mayhem.     It is clear to me that this movie is not only mostly way over a child’s head,  it is also so far out in left field, that most adults, even those willing to suspend their disbelief, will leave scratching their heads.   And there are a myriad of stereotypical Western voices, including Bill Nightly as Rattle Snake Jake.   May I suggest however you wait and take your child to the next ‘animated’ feature instead of this one—- after all Puss n’ Boots is on the way, and compared to this movie, it looks postively sane and normal.   I think this movie should have had as its theme song ‘Take a Walk on the Wild Side’.

  • Phil N

    My family went to see it on Friday. Let’s say it was strange, and at times inappropriate. Yet, my 5 and 8 year old boys got it. We talked about the film afterwards and they actually got some of the themes going on (Abuse of Power, Corruption, Greed, manipulation, pretending to be someone you’re not, Environmental Stewardship). I found the overly realistic animation to be dark and disturbing, but overall it was a good story.

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    O.K. Phil, obviously your children were more on the right wave length than I was.

    BW3

  • http://johnmeunier.wordpress.com John Meunier

    I read a review of the movie over at Politics Daily that cast it as a movie aimed at those who call themselves spiritual but not religious.

    I was interested that your review did not see any spiritual theme or message in the film.

    http://www.politicsdaily.com/2011/03/10/rango-aims-at-spiritual-but-not-religious-audience-which/

    I’m curious whether you think that reviewer was finding something that was not there.


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