Monday, 28 March 2011


I went into the theatre knowing that my favourite film critic (Ebert) had given Rango four stars. Perhaps if other critics had leaned toward three stars or less, I would not have had such high expectations. As it was ….

Rango starts very strong (as many films do), with much clever and witty dialogue delivered by Johnny Depp as the protagonist (Rango). Johnny continues to impress me with his range, and he, like the rest of the voice cast, was outstanding in this film. The characters in this film were brilliantly conceived and drawn as well as acted. I was also particularly impressed by the gorgeous 2D cinematography (an animated film not available in 3D - what’s the world coming to? Better days, I hope).

Rango features allusions to (and even characters from) many other films, including Chinatown, High Noon, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and even Star Wars. This was again very cleverly done and frequently brought a knowing smile to my face. And then there was the Mariachi band with more clever lines and a great running gag.

So Rango was a lot of fun to watch. But (I hope you knew this ‘but’ was coming) ultimately Rango failed to live up to my high expectations. Basically, I think Rango was too clever for its own good. There were so many clever lines and scenes that the filmmakers failed to notice that the rather lackluster plot had been overlooked. While there were some deviations from the classic Western plot (including a very welcome attempt to challenge the typical story of the go-it-alone hero with his endless redemptive violence), much of the story was predictable. Worse, much of the story was filled with silliness and pointless action seemingly for the sake of showing off the filmmaking and the endless film allusions (including one from Apocalypse Now which did not work for me at all). With the steady decline of my enjoyment of, and engagement with, the film as it went on (appearance of the ‘man with no name’ notwithstanding), I could not help but feel unsatisfied when the closing credits came on and revealed that Jake the rattlesnake was played by Bill Nighy (how had I missed that?).

Because some parts were so enjoyable, I’m going to give Rango ***+, though just barely. My mug is up but I wish the flavours inside blended into a more satisfying whole. Note to parents: In my opinion, this film is aimed more at adults than children, though older children will certainly enjoy it.

1 comment:

  1. We're definitely agreed on your note to parents. And I also agree on the opening being strong - though I'm tempted to say that the strength of the opening was the worst part of the movie because of the disappointment it caused. After the first fifteen minutes or so, I thought I was going to really, really love this film. The wittiness, the chorus of owls, and the intro the theme of finding identity in this age all seemed to point to a movie worth many references and referrals. Alas, the middle bogged down badly. The chance to still make a really meaningful point with the theme of going through the desert and getting through to the other side was blown for me by the semi-suicidal impression of the road-crossing(I'd love to be corrected if you didn't see it that way). In any case, still good for a solid *** at least - two mugs up, but I'd recommend people just let the film play while they make themselves a snack when they get to the chuckwagon chase.