Heroes of the East

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    Rango (2011: Gore Verbinski)

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    Masterofoneinchpunch

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    Location : Modesto, CA

    Rango (2011: Gore Verbinski)

    Post  Masterofoneinchpunch on Mon Mar 14, 2011 12:05 pm

    Rango (2011: Gore Verbinski) ***/**** (possibly ***½):

    I do not always understand Roger Ebert's penchant for his overuse of the **** rating, but I still take it in consideration when deciding what to watch. I was in the mood to see something in the theater and this week did not seem to have an overriding amount of films that screamed watch me. So I thought instead of watching the poorly reviewed Battle: Los Angeles, I thought I would see what Ebert stated as "... some kind of a miracle: An animated comedy for smart moviegoers, wonderfully made, great to look at, wickedly satirical, and (gasp!) filmed in glorious 2-D." His rating is, of course, too high, but the movie is a fun and pleasant experience.

    There is nothing tremendously new or original in the plot. While the anthropomorphism of the various animals thrown together help make it seem they are in their own unique world, film fans are going to notice this is not the case though they probably will enjoy the huge amount of references to other material. Johnny Depp plays Rango/Lars a lizard that had a comfortable existence as a kept lizard in an aquarium with a headless doll and a fake fish for a companion. A near accident in a traveling car causes his habitat to fly out and crash amongst the highway leaving him to bake, shed skin and half to dodge traffic. There he meets an armadillo half ran over on the road (that has to be a little much for young kids) who is a Don Quixote character (another reference to a Johnny Depp project) who sends Lars on his way to meet his destiny.

    Destiny is a woman lizard named Beans who has a quirky trait which is really just an instinctual behavior gone wrong (she freezes at inappropriate moments). She leads him to a western town that is drying up from lack of water. In fact water is the most important currency there and unbeknownst to the two folks the bank's reserves are almost out. Lars finds himself in a saloon and with his acting talents and his need to not get killed he creates a fake bravado and a monstrously tall tale of heroics. At this point I am reminded of Don Knotts in The Shakiest Gun in the West (see link below which also covers this; IMDB wrongly states that the character was Barney Fife influenced), but of course it also reminds me of the original The Paleface (had to have at least one Bob Hope reference).

    Through happenstance and just plain luck the townsfolk thinks he is a majestic hero after he dispatches a ravenous bird and gets made sheriff by the town's mayor (Ned Beatty doing an obvious John Huston imitation from Chinatown). However, someone is stealing the town's water and with the bird gone an outlaw rattler has no fear to come back to the town. Will Lars (known in the town as Rango) succeed? Is there any question to what will happen in the film? Probably not, but it is still fun.

    This is not really a film for kids though. I was paying somewhat attention to the children's and parents reactions and it seemed the parents made the stronger laughs and comments. I wonder if anyone else caught the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas reference. Some of the scenes are a bit strong for PG and in some of the reviews I have read (Modesto Bee for example) they like the film but pan it because it is not for kids.

    The animation is quite good and it helps to be seen in the theater. While the storyline is a bit trite and perhaps a bit too much material is derivative (even the score is quite reminiscent of Ennio Morricone), there are enough superlative scenes and humor to make this a worthwhile cinematic venture. Heck I might go so far as to say this will probably be nominated for an animated Oscar, as long as the Academy can remember a film before September.

    Here is a link on some of the meta references to the film from Entertainment Weekly: http://popwatch.ew.com/2011/03/06/the-top-six-rango-riffs-on-classic-movies/ It did not catch the Pirates of the Caribbean reference(s).

    Other random information: I have to mention former Modesto native Timothy Olyphant as the voice of The Spirit of the West (I wonder who he is imitating).
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    Masterofoneinchpunch

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    Re: Rango (2011: Gore Verbinski)

    Post  Masterofoneinchpunch on Tue Jun 05, 2012 1:52 pm

    bump because Brian saw this recently.
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    Brian T

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    Re: Rango (2011: Gore Verbinski)

    Post  Brian T on Thu Jun 07, 2012 3:48 pm

    Glad you bumped this. When I was typing up my recent views, I kinda remembered you writing about this one, but figured it was buried somewhere in the other thread. Shoulda just looked here. Definitely share your sentiments on it, which is somewhat surprising to me because I had very little interest in seeing it theatrically. The trailers and posters — and its seeming bizarreness overall — did nothing for me, nor I wasn't very fond (at the time) of the character designs, perhaps because I just don't like reptiles and their lot. But after I watched it, I gave myself a little mental kick for not seeing it on the big screen. I knew going in that Timothy Olyphant, who's excellent in the TV series JUSTIFIED (also on my recent viewing list) and wasn't too bad in DIE HARD 4, played something called "The Spirit of the West", but I had no clue what that might be, so the character's revelation was a pleasant surprise, though not so much Olyphant's spot-on vocal work as I remember remarking to myself that he sounded somewhat similar to a certain party even as I was watching the first episode of JUSTIFIED Smile . Suffice it to say I'll be picking up RANGO on Blu-ray when a bargain price turns up.

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