Rango (2011)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 1/1/14
Director: Gore Verbinski
Animation By: Industrial Light And Magic
Cast: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Ned Beatty, Timothy Olyphant

A strange and offbeat tale of a pet chameleon (Johnny Depp) who finds himself in a desert town called Dirt. As a stranger in town, he takes on the role of a hero named Rango, and his tall tales of fabricated bravery capture the imagination of the simple townsfolk. Unfortunately, Dirt is suffering from a severe water shortage, and the smooth talking mayor knows more about it than he lets on. Rango is appointed sheriff of the town and sets out to find a solution to the water problem, which only lands him in a heap of trouble. Run out of town as a coward and a fraud, Rango's existential crisis is finally resolved when he encounters the Spirit Of The West (Timothy Olyphant doing his best Clint Eastwood impersonation) and embraces his inner hero.

It's a beautifully animated film and the desert environments are gorgeous. The character designs are fun and quirky, and have a nice Old West flair. The writing tends to ramble aimlessly, mirroring Johnny Depp's enthusiastically over the top performance. The film makes references to numerous other movies, including "Apocalypse Now", "The Road Warrior", "Raiders Of The Lost Ark", and "Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas", while riffing on just about every Western cliché in the book. Thematically, the film reminded me most of "The Three Amigos." Ultimately, your enjoyment of the film boils down to how much you like Rango himself, as his eccentric antics are what drive the narrative. I found him to be charming and annoying at the same time, which pretty much sums up the entire experience.