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Click for full sized poster


Starring Johnny Depp Isla Fisher and Timothy Olyphant
Written by John Logan
Story by John Logan Gore Verbinski and James Ward Byrkit
Directed by Gore Verbinski

IN SHORT: a fine family feature. [Rated PG for rude humor, language, action and smoking. 107 minutes]

Even before we begin, we'd like to point out the website which has a terrific game of Go Fish you can let your kids play with. Or you play it -- we could barely stop, too.Downloadable Wallpapers of images from the film are also available from yours Cranky, click here

Right off the bat; while animated movies are traditionally aimed at the full family spectrum, their emphasis usually falls to the littlest kids who have short attention spans, Rango tends to aim its humor just a wee bit higher. That nearly all of the film's characters are reptilian (sic) will keep the kiddies busy following the characters based on their voices and sounds . . . not so different from mentally impaired reviewers like yours Cranky. For my part, I kept noticing jokes written on posters and signs in the films background images, rather than following the general story. That's a minor quibble since the story never got away from me.

For those that read more than the dollar rating and the first paragraph we continue the explanation: animation and adult are not mutually exclusive terms. That Johnny Depp lends his voice to the lead character -- a chameleon who takes the name from a discarded bottle of cactus juice -- should reassure those who also connect the terms cartoon and infantile. Here's one more pertinent word: "'toonhead" (meaning those of us who are fans of the medium. "Us" includes yours Cranky and we've got cels in our personal possession enough to prove it).

A quartet of singing Mexican owls narrates our tale -- for those with quick eMail trigger fingers, we point out that Rango is an animated film as much a tribute to old Westerns of the 1940s as it is a funny film. Those quartets drove the plots of many underfunded and underwritten movies way back when and those of you that have problems with accents, whether or stereotype or otherwise, should take 'em up with the filmmakers. A soon to be forgotten family packs up and moves itself from East to West, hitting a bump in the road in the middle of the Mojave desert, thus losing the family terrarium.

In that terrarium is a chameleon, clad in nothing but a Hawaiian shirt (!), who must learn to survive in the dry, desert surroundings. A veritable stranger in a strange land where all the surviving creatures have taken names and identities right out of old 1940s style movie westerns. Taking the name "Rango" from the label on a discarded bottle of cactus juice, our hero acclimates himself to the Town called Dirt and soon fabricates a personal history in which he is a gunslinging hero, who once put down a gang of seven outlaws with one bullet.

That impressive history is enough for The Mayor (Ned Beatty). He appoints Rango to fill the vacant position of sheriff. It isn't that the town needs a sheriff to keep order, no. It needs a sheriff to find out where all of the town's water gone. Said water has probably been stolen by the big shot bad guy in town -- he's a banker named Merrimack (Stephen Root) accused of dumping the town's water out in the desert (!). Merrimack will import a gun for hire, Rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy), to handle the lawman. For some reason Jake and Rango call each other brother, which is the only part of the film that threw us. Sure, it's probably a sarcastic reference but there are plenty of other characters to keep track of in this film and extra confusion is just not appreciated.

Yeah, well, we've had head injuries. It's not your problem. The big problem for all characters concerned, is finding water. When all is said and done, Rango is a very clever and certainly amusing 'toon in its old West setting. WIth ample support from voices by Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Vincent Kartheiser, Harry Dean Stanton and a standout surprise appearance by the "Spirit of the West" (Timothy Olyphant doing a voice you all should recognize) it is

We don't put dollar ratings on family films. We will say that we strongly recommend Rango for the family. There is nothing unfit for the smallest tykes in Rango. They may be better off waiting for the eventual DVD release, so they can watch the film over and over and over again. That allows grown up 'toonheads like Cranky to spend his time and money watching the big theater screens, over and over and over again. That's a lot of words written to say that we enjoyed Rango. Which we did.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.