Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Chameleon: A Review of Rango

     So far, the year two-thousand and eleven has been one hell of a horrendous year for the average movie-goer. March is already half-way over, and we've only gotten just plain shit (basically): three of the top four-grossing films so far have been the Adam Sandler movie Just Go with It, which relied completely upon the marketing of Brooklyn Decker's huge and luscious funbags, the animated film Gnomeo and Juliet (I mean: just take a look at that fucking title), and the Mr. Demi Moore-starring No Strings Attached. Thankfully, the 5th highest grossing film so far this year, Rango, rises above the continuing stream of thick sewage that flows from the cinemas: although it has plenty of faults, Rango, starring the main voice of Johnny Depp, is a generally fun, wacky and weird ride through a beautiful picturesque landscape filled with interesting creatures and a sign-of-the-times plot about the conservation of clean water.
     Dirt, the fictional town in which Rango takes place, is a very interesting and typical dangerous little village that seems to be the setting for hundreds of Western films throughout the age of cinema. The common folk mingle with outlaws as they saunter down the street. If you push open the swinging wooden doors and step into the town saloon, card games are being argued over and tobacco juice drips down chins. Don't even think about asking for water from the barkeep. All that's on tap is fermented flammable cactus juice. As you may have figured, this animated town's inhabitants are desert creatures instead of humans, but some of the conflicts are the same as other Western films: the main treasure in the film is stored in the bank vault, only its water instead of money. There is a power-hungry mayor and a band of outlaws and bad creatures around to cause trouble. When Rango the chameleon decides to become a lizard that he is not (that is, to pretend to be a legend and all-around badass from the far west), he embarks on a journey to try and save the town's water supply from a myriad of various exciting situations and animals.
    Rango is more interesting than other non-Pixar animated fare for two reasons: the first is that the film was created in an exciting and original way. Typically, voice actors in most animated films read their lines into a microphone in a small, dark recording studio. That isn't the case here; Rango's voice actors all got together in the same studio and recorded their lines as well as acting them out. They had 20 days and box of costumes to wear. The director of Rango, Gore Verbinski--who previously directed The Ring and the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films--points out a good reason for it: "This is my first animated film and the process of the way voices have been recorded seemed bizarre to me. I wanted the actors to be together, collide into each other. It was okay if their lines overlapped or they were out of breath, sniffled or snorted." It's noticeable in the final product. Rango sizzles with witty, quick dialogue and human emotion.
     The other reason the film is interesting is its existential nature, and that's also one of the problems with the film: it's marketed towards children, but is more suited for adults who raise the question of Who am I? and contemplate the reasoning between existing and nothingness. Rango gets thrown into this new town and decides to become something that he always wanted to be: a hero. Near the beginning of the film, before he gets to the town of Dirt, Rango is dying of thirst on one side of the road when he comes upon an armadillo. The wise armadillo leaves Rango and says, "See you on the other side." "Of what, the road?" Rango replies. "It's a metaphor," Mr. Armadillo states. My advice: leave the children and their undeveloped mush of brains at home with a babysitter. The film might not answer the question of Who am I? to you, but for two hours, you can watch a once-timid now-heroic lizard find the answer to just that.     (B+)

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