Tribute to Spaghetti Westerns, "Rango" Bypasses Kid Audiences
Release Date: July 15, 2011
· Gore Verbinski
· Johnny Depp
· Isla Fisher
· Abigail Breslin
· Ned Beatty
DVD Review: Rango (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)
by R.J. Carter
Published: July 13, 2011
Verbinski's vision of a spaghetti western done with CGI critters is unique -- even artistic -- but one can't help question if the traditional audience of animated fare will have even a passing familiarity with the source materials. Not that the plot is necessarily for younger viewers in the first place (note the PG rating).
The titular Rango (voiced by Johnny Depp) is a lizard with the soul of an actor/director. After the audience is introduced to the story by an ominous song strummed out by a band of mariachi owls, Rango, a domesticated pet, finds himself thrust into the desert wilds where he is woefully unprepared to survive. Guided to a town of desert creatures by a (dead?) armadillo named Roadkill (Alfred Molina), Rango recreates his image into one of a lawman with a history Baron Munchausen would find hard to believe. When he accidentally kills a hawk with one bullet, however, his reputation is cemented, and he becomes the town hero -- and an unknowing pawn in the water rights manipulating schemes of the ancient tortoise who serves as the Mayor of Dirt (Ned Beatty).
If "Rango" fails audiences, it's not because of the actors. Each cast member delivers an outstanding performance. Isla Fisher voices Beans, the orphaned daughter of a rancher, now being forced to sign over the deed to the mayor. Abigail Breslin voices Priscilla, an eerie little girl who's something of a tribute to "True Grit"'s Mattie Ross with a healthy does of Wednesday Addams mixed in. Harry Dean Stanton and Stephen Root help flesh out the other characters in play, and Bill Nighy lends his voice to the outlaw Rattlesnake Jake. And while Timothy Olyphant does nothing wrong voicing the Spirit of the West, it does seem a shame that Verbinski wasn't able to entice Clint Eastwood to come in and deliver the few lines of this golf-cart driving, Oscar-winning, sarape-wearing figure.
"Rango" is a movie of memorable moments, which don't necessarily work together to create a memorable movie. It's artistically brilliant, working from the designs driven by Mark McCreery, with clever animation and a palette from a bygone era. Perhaps it tried so much to much to be a classic western that it forgot to be itself. To that end, "Rango" is watchable, but not particularly re-watchable.
Bonus features on this release (occuring only on the Blu-ray disc) include a commentary track (available only on the extended version of the feature) with Gore Verbinski, James Ward Byrkit, Mark McCreery, Hal Mickel and Tim Alexander. There's also a very in-depth and interesting making-of feature, "Breaking the Rules: Making Animation History," which follows the film from its earliest discussions (which became derailed while Verbinski became tied up with "some pirate movie") all the way through the work with ILM.
There are also ten deleted scenes, a storyboard reel PiP (theatrical version only), a documentary on the "Real Creatures of Dirt" that shows us some of the actual animals in their natural environment, and "A Field Trip to Dirt," which is an interactive walk-thru of the CGI town, with explorable points of interest and pop-up information boxes.
Previews on this release include "Puss in Boots," "Kung Fu Panda 2," and videogame trailers for Monkey Quest and Rango.