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March 21, 2011 | by  | in Arts Film | [ssba]


The crafting of a successful family film is a delicate balance between entertaining the kids and providing enough material to keep their parents in the loop. Gore Verbinski’s Rango provides the latter in spades, but at times it feels as though the excess of film references might alienate the very audience towards whom it has been marketed.

Rango follows a pet chameleon (voiced by Johnny Depp) whose captivity has had a detrimental effect on his mental wellbeing. Suddenly having freedom thrust upon him, he finds himself in the desert town of Dirt. Anthropomorphic animal residents aside, Dirt is straight out of a Ford or Leone film. It’s fitting, then, that all is not well in Dirt and it’s up to our reptilian hero to rise to the occasion and save the day.
Firstly, Rango looks great. Animated but filmed using motion capture technology to imitate the actions of its actors, it wisely does not attempt to be overly realistic, so the characters avoid looking like the creepy ‘uncanny valley’ figures in other mo-cap films like The Polar Express and the upcoming Mars Needs Moms. This doesn’t mean the aesthetics completely enter the realm of the fantastic and textures like scales, fur and feathers are rendered beautifully and accurately; they simply cover creatures that are very much cartoon characters, not anatomically correct fauna.

As my summary suggests, Rango owes a lot to the Western genre in which it operates. However, the film references do not simply end with nods to High Noon and Once Upon a Time in the West. At various moments I caught allusions to (among others) Chinatown, Lord of the Rings and even Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. These are great if you’re a film lover like me, but at times, these references dominate all else and the film suffers as a result. Thankfully, there is enough humour, brilliant set pieces and eccentric characters to win back any audience members who may not be familiar with The Man with No Name.

To tell the truth, Rango probably overdoes the film allusions. But by gum, it is fun.


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  1. Taimi says:

    I am foerevr indebted to you for this information.

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