Rango, unbelievably, is a true, blue Western with all the tropes and quirks of the genre. So, how this was made into a movie (and a kids' one at that) is beyond me. But I’m glad it was, because Rango is a whole lot of fun.
How did Rango get made into a movie? I know it’s a Nickelodeon picture, and Nickelodeon has always been a network of the bizarre (Aaahh!!! Real Monsters) and the really bizarre (Ren and Stimpy). But those were TV programs intended for a very particular, hopped-up-on sugar audience. This, on the other hand, is an original, full-scale motion picture starring none other than the likes of Johnny Depp. I mean, after Pirates of the Caribbean, Hollywood must have really had a lot of faith in director Gore Verbinski to allow him the freedom to make something as weird and as wonderful as Rango. But I’m glad they did, because really, this could have been a total disaster if there had been any restraints or interventions put on its production.
Instead, we’re given an honest-to-God Western that doesn’t seem like a kids' movie at all, but yet, still does, which makes it all the more impressive. Johnny Depp stars as a pet chameleon that is stranded in the desert after a mishap involving his owner’s driving. That’s fine. But then, you know what happens? We get a cameo appearance by Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo straight out of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Seriously, it was only about 10 minutes into the film and they already had me totally enraptured. I mean, what kind of messed up, wonked out kids’ film has a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas reference? This one does! And it’s not even the weirdest thing that happens in the entire movie, which is what really makes it so special and different from most animated films. You really don’t know where it’s going to go next. From the familiar, Western friendly town of Dirt, to Las Vegas itself, this movie travels all over the place, but it’s still cohesive and really funny at the same time. I had a blast.
Really, though, I think a major reason for that is because I love Westerns in general. From the way Rango walks to the way some of the movie’s long shots are done -- especially the ones at sunset, which are beautiful -- to the way the townspeople are so gullible if one just flashes a badge, it’s all classic Western material. So much so, that, again, I’m kind of fascinated by how this got to be such a popular film in the first place. Last I checked, Westerns weren’t entirely in -- though, the popularity of the Coen Bros.' True Grit remake might be a sign that America is digging them again.
If I have any real complaints with the film, it’s that there are just too many villains afoot. Yes, I like that it keeps the story moving, but Bill Nighy’s big bad, Rattlesnake Jake, comes a bit too late in the film. And the main villain, who is meant to be a surprise, is WAY too obvious. I would have liked to see another twist as this movie is just full of them. That would have been nice. Other than that, though, Rango is a close to perfect film (note, I didn’t say perfect KIDS' film, but perfect film in general). It’s entertaining, highly stimulating, and funny as all hell. Watch it. It’s definitely worth it.
There are literally hours of special features on here. While the obligatory deleted scenes aren’t really that special -- and I’d swear some of these scenes are actually in the theatrical cut -- there’s also an all new ending that I actually prefer to the one in the movie, which is a rarity. There’s also a “Storyboard Mode,” where you can watch the entire picture with the storyboards at the bottom of the screen. It’s interesting to see just how important storyboarding really is, especially with animation.
There’s also a “Go Behind the Scenes with Cast and Crew” segment where we get to see just how much work went into the art of this film. Seriously, it’s astounding. “Meet the Real Creatures of Dirt” is a fascinating look at real desert animals that are in the film. It also features a very long shot of a disgusting centipede that’s thankfully not in the film, so people who fear centipedes -- like myself -- you’ve been warned. There’s also an “Interactive Trip to Dirt,” where you can click around the town from the movie and learn about the different shops and characters that populate it. It’s great.
While clicking around the special features, I also saw that it said that there’s director’s commentary on here, even though it doesn’t mention it on the back of the box. But try as I may, I couldn’t find it anywhere on either discs or on my computer, so I really don’t know what to tell you about that one. Other than that, though, the special features are stellar if you loved the movie. It’s a great package, and the picture from the Blu-Ray disc is magnificent. It’s worth every penny of your hard earned buck. Pick it up.