The last time Johnny Depp and Gore Verbinski teamed up, we got Captain Jack Sparrow and the Pirates of the Caribbeans franchise. Now they are back with an animation about a pet chameleon roughing it out in a small old west town populated by desert animals.
We have seen Johnny Depp in a variety of memorable roles that range from a murderous barber, the owner of a chocolate factor, a author of a classic story and a character from a classic story. Mostly characters that are a bit weird but always interesting.
Rango, a talking lizard who is out of his elements seemed like a role that suits Johnny Depp like a glove. A domestic pet trying to act tough in face of adversity has plenty of opportunities for laughs and Johnny Depp might just be the man to deliver it. The story of an accidental hero is not new but it might be lots of fun with Johnny Depp in the lead role.
Plus Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) who gave us memorable special effects in Star Wars and plenty of others films, would be providing their first full length computer animation feature. Would be interesting to see if they can challenge Pixar, Dreamworks animation and other animation companies for a piece of the animation market pie.
He met Beans (Isla Fisher) and she took her to the Dirt, a small town that looks like the Wild West. He enters a bar and found that it was filled with mean looking animals that are about to chew him up. In a moment of inspiration, he decided to role play as a tough character and called himself Rango. To gain some street cred with the folks in the bar, he decided to share bravado stories of his "past"
Meanwhile, Beans who was trying to save her father's property, discovered that the only bank in town was running out water. Water in this movie is like the money, a prized commodity in this town and without it, the folks are leaving town.
The town mayor decided to make Rango the sheriff of the town and without thinking much about it, he took the job on. A worried Beans then demand Rango to quickly solve the water shortage problem. Town folks also informed him that with the hawk gone, the second super predator, the rattlesnake might return. Rango who was busking in his new found adulation did not take those warning seriously and promised that he will solved the problem eventually.
On the first night as a sheriff, Rango inadvertently gave the mole robbers the bank location and tools to "prospect" the bank. Waking up to the discover that the bank had been robbed, Rango was tasked to form a posses to retrieve the stolen water. Along the way, Rango and Beans noticed that something is fishy about the town running out of water and it might be more than a mere robbery.
From the start, it was incredibly tedious first hour that almost put me to sleep. It could be that I was tired but it felt like a long walk in the hot dry desert. The jokes were mostly flat and the best scenes were already on the trailer. It doesn't help that the movie moves in such a predictable fashion that it felt like it was cut and copy from many classic (cult or otherwise) movies. It's like I seen this movie before, in many different other fashions.
The characterization was a problem here and ironically Rango was the biggest culprit in most part of the movie. It was really hard to relate to this character. Personally, that not much in Rango character that would make me root for this underdog masquerading as a top dog. In fact, he became rather irritating egoistic when he became over confident. Not to mention there a silliness about Rango that seems like a desperate bid to endear himself to the audience. Some might like it but it did very little for me. Using Jack Sparrow as a reference, Johnny Depp's Rango would be like the Captain Sparrow in the last two installments where it would have been better if there's less of Captain Jack Sparrow.
It makes me wonder what happened in the first half. Was there a change in writers? Why did the story took so long to get where it was going? The last act was the redeeming part of the movie. It makes Rango likable once again and brings some sort of excitement to the movie. If only the movie was consistently good as the last act.
The animation factor. ILM did a commendable job. Some scenes were beautiful to look at. The rendering of Rango and his animal friends were top notch. Personally, I am looking forward to their next animation project.
Watching Rango makes me wonder how is this movie going to be marketed to kids. There are plenty of moments that felt too dark for a kid show. The reference jokes might be lost with them too. Personally, the film is marred by the slow start but somewhat redeemed by the final arc. Rango is entertaining but not as good as expected. Perhaps it's the high expectation or personal weariness that didn't allowed me to enjoy the first half of Rango as much I would like to. I am more than willing to rewatch this movie again to see if the perspective changes.