Warning: Prepare Yourself For A Hyperbolic Lovefest.
A week ago I was halfway tempted to label Drive Angry 3D the first great movie of 2011. And as much as I loved that demented little love letter to all things Roger Corman and Exploitative, I didn't get the wibbly, giddy goosebumps that I got when basking in the glory of Gore Verbinski's surreal, equally cinematicly referential, but absolutely, wickedly head-trippy Rango.
Produced by Nickelodeon Movies (the same sharp tacks that brought us The Last Airbender, Hotel For Dogs, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Clockstoppers, Good Burger, and Nacho Libre -- okay, that last one is kinda awesome) Rango is labeled a CGI comedy western. A description that appears accurate, but misses the bananas of it all. It is CGI (fact...but the performances were also captured in-camera). It is comedic (in parts, there are also plenty of parts that are just shockingly ghastly and horrific...roadkill, man, roadkill). It is a Western (a Weird Western that should certainly play alongside other genre-bender greats like Walker and From Dusk Till Dawn 3). But, yeah, Rango is El Topo loco.
Technically, Rango is a masterstroke. Director Gore Verbinski (the Pirates trilogy, The Ring remake, and...wait for it...The Super Awesome Nicolas Cage downer The Weather Man) chose to not only record the cast together, but in an attempt to capture "the spontaneity of live action," filmed the script. The animation is just stunning. Film fans have come to expect great work from the F/X wizards at ILM, and as their first foray into feature length animation I have to say that the gauntlet has been dropped on those at Pixar and Deamworks. Rango is the one to beat. When I saw the below trailer last year, it was the stunning detail to the Western characters that immediately struck a chord with my genetic cinema code.
And Rango is EPIC. Johnny Depp is The Lizard With No Name. He's Billy the Kid. He's Django. He's The Three Amigos.....yeah, that's probably most apt. Lucky, Dusty, and Ned all rolled into one. A struggling actor searching for an audience and discovering a town oppressed by not only Rattlesnake Jake's tyranny, but also this crazy Chinatown water conspiracy. He plays the part, but will he become the part??? Existential stuff. And Rango's got the Spellboundy Salvadore Dali dream sequences to match the crazy philosophy.
With the exception of Isla Fisher who just disappears into the voice of Beans, the cast is pretty obvious stuff. Johnny Depp has mastered his Spazz persona. Ned Beatty is naturally gruff and old timey as the tortoise mayor. As Bad Bill and Rattlesnake Jake, Ray Winstone and Bill Nighy are quintissentially Britishly villainous. But, obvious is good. Obvious is the point. These are Western characters hit on the head, nails driven deep into the wood. And when Timothy Olyphant represents your Spirit of the West, well, slap your knee and grin cuz this movie is genius.
Rango is definitely funny. But it's not a Ha-Ha fest. This is not Kung Fu Panda 2, or Cars 2, or Puss in Boots, or The Smurfs. Rango is an original creation that might alienate a few folks (although apparently not too many since it snatched #1 with $38,000,000), but with an open mind for weirdness and Western geekiness and some gross and icky bits then you'll gobble this Madness down. I know that when I left the theater I had that same pleasant sensation I experienced after Shaun of the Dead, a sensation that I had just witnessed the birth of a classic. Crazy talk? Maybe, but right now, I'm high on Rango. Time to start buying vinyl collectibles.
Rango: **** out of *****