Socorro movie review: Rango
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Voiced by: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty
Showing nightly at the Loma Theater at 7:00 through April 15th
Director Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean series, The Ring) pulls out a big gun (Johnny Depp) and a bunch of moderately sized guns (everyone else) in this interesting animated story of resource management and corrupt politicians that has a remarkably mature plot with an Old West backdrop. I found the voice acting excellent (with Depp the standout as the title character), and the animation superior (as should be expected with computer graphics in this age,) but as tight as these are, Verbinski's habit of leaving some loose ends in the plot prevented this from being a great film.
As would be expected in an animated film, all the human characters found in an Old West movie (from the banker, to the mayor, to the sheriff, and everyone in between) have been traded in for anthropomorphic animals (and in one case, plants.) This sounds like a recipe for a simple kid's movie, but between the dark graphic style, and a very grown-up story revolving around who controls water and land in a small desert town, it adds up to a very adult movie. I didn't find characters in the film the least bit cute, from the disconcerting intensity of Beans, the female lizard to the fully conscious bird with an arrow protruding from his eye socket. There is a strong feeling of pulp fiction to this movie, with an intriguing mystery to be solved, a lot of dirty secrets floating around town, and back room deals being made. Depp is a standout here, his voice characterization of the hapless stranger Rango, thrust in the midst of the small town's business, is excellent, along with Ned Beatty's Mayor, and Harry Dean Stanton's shady Balthazar. That's not to take away from the other characters, all of whom put in very good efforts in capturing the staple Wild West movie characters. I also really appreciated the nods made to at least a few classic movies: from "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (another Depp film), Sergio Leone's seminal Spaghetti Westerns, "Star Wars," and "Apocalypse Now" to name just a few. All of these are the ingredients of a great film, and just like previous turns behind the camera, Verbinski gets so close, but doesn't quite make it. There are a few jumps in the story that are just annoying enough to bring this film down a notch. Without going in to details (and spoiling the story,) the faction alignments are fluid (too fluid in fact), and there are jumps in the story that make you feel like you fell asleep for a few select scenes. If Verbinski added a few scenes explaining some of these jumps, the movie would have been great.
Verbinski manages to corral all of the different aspects of this movie into a very good cinematic experience. Don't assume this will be a good movie to take the kids to, as the story gets pretty complex, and some of the characters are at times nightmare inducing. Otherwise, I recommend seeing this movie. It has excellent date potential, as the humor and animation are a good hook, while the subject matter makes for great conversation fodder. And a word to the wise: if you are watching this movie at the Loma, DO NOT get the popcorn. It gave us a dose of food poisoning we are still feeling at my house.
editor's note: regarding the popcorn, I think the Loma workers need to take a food handling class; they don't seem to be familiar with the concept of washing hands between handling money and handling food, among other things.