While “Rango,” at first glance, may look like a children’s movie, it is highly enjoyable for all ages.
The movie gives homage to the same spaghetti-western genre it’s deftly spoofing, and has more than a few not-so-subtle references to other classics such as “The Wizard of Oz,” “Chinatown,” and of course the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series that director Gore Verbinski is best known for.
“Rango,” despite being about desert animals instead of people, uses a common western plot. An outsider gets roped into becoming the heroic sheriff of the small outpost of a town and has to defend its citizens from corrupt officials, bandits and outlaws, all while searching for the mystical “Spirit of the West.”
If there is anything that makes this movie so great, it’s the talent behind the voices. Verbinksi has proven with the “Pirates” trilogy that he knows how to cast appropriately.
There are very few actors that seem to make the movie into their own because of their acting talents and personality, and Johnny Depp is one of those few.
Verbinski wisely puts his star pirate in the main role in this movie, and Depp makes it what it is. Even while being limited to his voice in this role, Depp is able to mesh self-doubting everyman with outlandish bravado to create a perfect anti-hero for this self-depreciating western.
That isn’t to say that Depp is the only one to shine in this movie. Ned Beatty, best known for his role in “Deliverance,” is perfect for the old mayor, and “Pirates” alum Bill Nighy brings back the bravado and wickedness he used for Davy Jones to play outlaw/murderer Rattlesnake Jake.
Even in his limited role as an armadillo seeking the “Spirit of the West,” Alfred Molina earns his role and proves once again he is one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood.
Isla Fischer, voicing the main love interest, unfortunately doesn’t quite compare to the other actors in the movie but she is not entirely at fault. There are so few great female western characters to take inspiration from, and her character was unusual to begin with (even for a movie about talking animals).
That isn’t to say that the movie does not have its flaws. At some points it drags through the plot, feeling as endless as the desert itself. And as hard as it tries to make an animated movie worth watching, it just doesn’t achieve the same heart-wrenching emotions as any Pixar movie.
In the end, “Rango,” especially compared to the sub-par movies it is competing against, is one of the first really good movies of the year. It’s a great movie for kids and an even better movie for film-savvy adults.