“Rango is an ordinary chameleon who accidentally winds up in the town of Dirt, a lawless outpost in the Wild West in desperate need of a new sheriff.” (IMDb)
2011. Starring Johnny Depp, Abigail Breslin, Isla Fisher, Ned Beatty, Alfred Molina and Bill Nighy
A Movie for Movie-Lovers… not necessarily kids
Yesterday, Peter, Trevor and I spent the afternoon/evening movie-hopping around Boston: Rango, Battle: LA, and The Adjustment Bureau. First on the list was Rango, and I definitely thought it was the best. Rango is another one of those “grown-up” films in kid’s clothes. While it looks like a kid’s film, it certainly is not. That is not to say that kids wouldn’t enjoy the film (as everyone is complaining on IMDb.com boards), but they won’t love it like adults will. The truly unfortunate thing about Rango was that it was made by Nickelodeon studios, and will therefore not get nearly as much press, attention or praise as a Pixar or Disney film would, even though it deserves it.
The biggest downfall of Rango is actually its first 10 minutes. In spite of how much I ended up liking the film, at first I thought, “well this is a TOTAL waste of money.” Rango begins with an odd Shakespearean theater routine acted out by this strange reptile and the plastic figurines in his cage and evolves into a sappy “who am I?” monologue. Kids will be thinking “WTF?” (Or simply “what?”, since they’re children and I really HOPE they aren’t saying WTF just yet) and adults will be thinking “give us a break.” Luckily Rango’s terrarium is suddenly launched from the back seat of his owner’s car and THAT is when the fun actually begins. It goes from being a shitty meta-literary statement to a fun, quirky western. It has everything you’d expect from a good western– rugged characters, accents, gunfights, snakes, bank robberies, pitiful townsfolk, a corrupt mayor and a out-of-towner turned sheriff, Rango.
Aside from a very compelling plot, my favorite aspect of Rango was simply the vast number of movie references. Characters, plot lines, quotes, shots– I’m not sure anything in the movie was original, but that made it all the more awesome. The filmmakers basically compiled favorite bits and pieces from dozens of classic and contemporary movies, especially westerns, which I appreciate, because I’ve been doing a lot of research on westerns for a new film I’m editing called Cowboy Café.
These are just a few of the COUNTLESS movie references in Rango. I’m sure I would have thought of many more had I written this right after seeing the film.
- The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (Bill Nighy’s Rattlesnake character = Van Cleef, amongst other references)
- Pirates of the Caribbean 1-3 (Rango’s dream sequence)
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Rango flying onto Hunter S. Thompson’s windshield)
- Chinatown (mayor character and plotline)
- Star Wars (aerial bat fight sequence, Beans character = Jar Jar Binks)
- The Lord of the Rings (tunneling with the cast of characters to find the origin of the water pipe, including the “evil eye”)
- The Big Lebowski (there was a shot in the middle of the movie that WAS the opening shot of TBL)
- Apocalypse Now (Flight of the Valkyries reference)
- Maverick (Beans character)
- Once Upon a Time in the West (Bar sequence)
- It’s a Wonderful Life (1st meeting with the mayor)
- Fistful of Dollars (and all other spaghetti westerns… for characters)
- Holes (dried up lake with boat– where did all the water go?)
- High Noon (gunfight sequence)
- True Grit (might be too recent, but the little Abigail Breslin rat character was just like Mattie Ross).
The other cool thing about Rango is the way it was made. Instead of having the actors simply stand in a sound booth and record their dialogue, they actually acted it out (like they did with Fantastic Mr. Fox). But unlike FMF, they filmed the process and then the animators based their work on the actors’ live performances. Check out this cool featurette on the making of Rango:
I hope all of you go see Rango, especially if you are movie lovers. Help support Nickelodeon, since it doesn’t get the press / automatic viewership that Pixar or Disney does.