Sometimes I recommend movies suitable only for those who like specific cinematic genres, but with Rango from 2011, I can safely put any family together in front of the television.
This animation gem signed by Gore Verbinski, indeed, is a perfect blend of action, comedy and adventure to keep everyone happy, from adults to children.
It all begins with a car traveling along the Mojave Desert, where a plastic case containing the tiny chameleon Rango is on the back shelf.
The car takes a curve at full speed, and the poor little animal, who has never lived a day on his own, finds himself alone for the first time.
In the middle of the desert, he faces blinding light and searing heat before encountering an enigmatic armadillo and a strange singing quartet of mariachi birds.
These strange figures tell him that if he wants to survive, the only chance is going to Dirt, the only inhabited place in the vast nothingness of that enormous sprawl of rocks and sand.
Arriving in town, through a fortunate coincidence and a bit of made-up talk, everyone immediately believes him to be a brave gunslinger.
At that point, the mayor and other townspeople ask him to become the sheriff and investigate a gang of robbers harassing all of them.
These thieves are not after money but water, the most precious commodity in that corner of the world long plagued by a terrible drought.
Unfortunately, leading the criminals is an insane and violent rattlesnake, Jake, who publicly humiliates the poor chameleon and then chases him into the desert.
Alone and lost, with no more self-confidence, Rango will find himself in fear and despair, eventually discovering who is actually behind the lack of water and the robberies in the town of Dirt.
A lot of Fun with Bullets and Citations
I don’t usually mind awards and recognition, but I am glad Rango won the Oscar for the best-animated movie in 2011.
While I enjoyed the Pirates of the Caribbean saga, I always thought these big blockbusters limited Gore Verbinski‘s imagination too much.
In Rango, however, every scene features a brilliant idea, and every sequence results from a brilliant insight.
Verbinski achieves the miracle of blending the innocent and cute Disney cartoon pets with the dirty and violent western world in a visually attractive way, creating an atmosphere hovering between parody and adventure.
The action scenes are an organized chaos of spectacular fun, where each character has their traits and abilities, weaving in an explosion of dramatic twists and turns.
As I said, Rango delights children who will love this brave little hero while simultaneously holding adult thematic characters that are interesting for everyone, such as the oppressive and evil figure of the mayor who threatens the peace of the town of Dirt.
Hans Zimmer‘s soundtrack is equally full of quotations, from Ennio Morricone‘s legendary harmonica to David Buttolph‘s sonic ride in the old westerns with John Wayne.
Equally amusing is the movie’s beginning with Rango’s owner speeding through the desert into an old 1964 light-red Cadillac, the same car Johnny Depp (voicing the chameleon) drove in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Terry Gilliam‘s 1998 psychedelic masterpiece.
However, these are just a few references, and I may have missed at least a hundred more… it’s up to you to find the others!
Western Animals Give Voice to a Wild Adventure
Rango is a 2011 hero who, like many of the characters in movies starring Johnny Depp, embodies the hero we all wish we could be.
We all desire to challenge our courage and experience a mysterious adventure like him, which leads us to discover fantastic and unexplored worlds.
The desire to start from scratch and have a new identity in a foreign city is a universal desire, making Rango a character many of us can identify with.
Moreover, the other characters are also solid and funny in their way, creating a diverse and entertaining cast of eccentric and colorful animals.
For example, there is the beautiful Beans, played masterfully by Isla Fisher, a courageous female lead who wins the hero’s heart despite her propensity to panic, sometimes leading to total paralysis.
However, to be genuinely great, every hero needs rivals worthy of him, and in Rango, there is no shortage of them.
Ned Beatty is outstanding, voicing the mayor of Dirt, a relentless villain who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
The snake gunman Jake, voiced by Bill Nighy, is even more brutal than the mayor, together creating a wing of terror sweeping away every obstacle in their path.
Although they are a real threat, the mayor and Jake sometimes resent each other, creating an exciting dynamic between the two characters.
Finally, Timothy Olyphant lends his voice to an aging Clint Eastwood wandering the desert as the one and only true Spirit of the West, a character who is the high point of nostalgia and respect for the Western genre’s past.
Indeed, he is the one who teaches the hardest lesson to the chameleon: no man can walk out of his own story.