Rango was weird, visually impressive, and original...so why don't people seem to remember it more?
In case you didn't realize from listening to our podcast (which of course I very highly recommend that you do), I am a lover of not only the mainstream, but the indie, and the forgotten as well. I've always had a fondness for trying to put people on to a book, tv show, or movie that they either have never seen, read, experienced, or simply forgotten about. So whenever I decide to write a blog post, I decided I would try to discuss things that you might find interesting for one reason or another. So having said that, let's talk about Rango.
I honestly can't remember when I first saw Rango. However, I will say that it left an enduring imprint on me. The thing is, on pretty much every level, you don't need me to sing Rango's praises. The movie won Best Animated Feature at the Oscars in 2011 and earned nearly $246 million against a $135 million budget. It currently sits at 88% on Rotten Tomatoes and 75% on Metacritic.
Strictly speaking, Rango was both a critical and commercial success...so why don't people seem to remember it more? One possible reason? Rango isn't a Disney movie. Ironically enough Rango was the first non-Disney movie since 2006's Happy Feet to win Best Animated Feature. However, I would be remiss to point out that Disney didn't have an animated movie nominated in 2011 because of their decision to crank out the lackluster Cars 2.
So, if you're reading this and have never watched Rango, what's it all about?
Rango is the story (and name) of a chameleon who spends his days acting out his weird little scenarios in his tank. After being thrown from his family's car into the unrelenting California/Nevada desert, Rango finds himself thrust into a position he has never found himself in; Surviving on his own.
This is where you realize that Rango is utterly incompetent and does his best to lie about it to every single person he meets. When he's trying to hide from a hawk that is looking for its next meal, he tries to camouflage himself but can only seem to accomplish turning himself bright green, purple, and blue. It necessitates Rango doing what he seems to do best, which is run for his life.
Eventually, Rango meets up with a desert iguana by the name of Beans who takes him into the town of Dirt. Dirt is pretty much every western town you've ever seen in movies like The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West. However, the denizens of Dirt consist of the desert creatures you'd find there, like a burrowing owl, a Chihuahua Raven, a cactus mouse, and more. Rango realizes very quickly that he is completely out of his element.
Due to his used car salesman-like ability to sell himself, the townfolk of Dirt starts to believe him, especially when he accidentally manages to kill the hawk that he'd run into earlier.
With the likes of Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, and Bill Nighy,
Rango has as close to an all-star cast as you can get. What I find interesting about the film is that the studio pretty much had the actors physically act out their roles in a movie that was entirely CGI. I highly recommend checking out this video showing the actors acting out their roles and being able to perform off of each other.
Watching the video you can tell the actors all had a great time messing around and becoming these characters, and it allowed the animators to capture the little movements the actors brought to their roles. The total "weirdness" of the actors and their respective roles is just another thing I love about Rango.
However, the star of the movie is, of course, Johnny Depp. Depp brings maniacal energy to his performance that can't be understated. Whether Rango is acting tough, terrified or anything in between Depp does a great job selling it. Honestly, Depp alone is probably worth seeing Rango for. I will also add that I personally love Bill Nighy, and his role as Rattlesnake Jake is one of my favorite western performances ever.
Even nine years later, Rango still holds up even among modern animated movies. It has a charm that is undeniable even to this day, especially in the town of Dirt, which you just can't help falling in love with. Part of me wishes we got to stay in Dirt for another movie just to see what happens after Rango is done.
The characters are all varied and memorable; just watch the saloon scene and tell me that you don't think that every character in there doesn't have a story that they could tell, based just on their appearance alone. The animators did a fantastic job of bringing a world to life, and even though it's a rough and tumble world of no forgiveness, it's a world I wanted to see more of by the end of Rango.
Rango to me is a classic movie. It was a fantastic film in 2011 and re-watching it more recently only drove home how utterly amazing it is. It's a movie that people don't seem to remember as well as a movie like Brave (which was underwhelming and won the 2012 Best Animated Feature Oscar).
"Look into my eyes, I wanna see you die."
As I mentioned before, Rango is not a children's movie. Hell, one of the lines from it is literally, "Look into my eyes, I wanna see you die." It's a movie for the older kids and the adults but still manages to sometimes slip into the PG territory. I should also point out that Jaws, Gremlins, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom*, and Poltergeist are all also rated PG and none of those movies are even close to what I'd call "for kids."
So if you haven't figured it by now, I highly recommend giving Rango a watch if you've never seen it. If you have seen it but haven't watched it in a while, I'd say it's time to go out there and give it a re-watch.
You can find Rango in bargain bins of places like Walmart (ironic, I know) and can score a Blu-Ray of it for about five bucks. Let Rango take you to Dirt for the first time or welcome you back with open arms. Five out of five film reels.
*Editors Note: Due to the graphical nature of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Steven Spielberg suggested to the MPAA that they alter their rating system. Just two months later, the PG-13 rating was created.