Best Movies of All Time + western



Rango is a 2011 animated film directed by Gore Verbinski. It tells the story of an unnamed lizard (voiced by Johnny Depp) who desperately wants to be an accomplished actor. He unfortunately lives in a terrarium with no friends save some plastic toys, and all he wants is to be taken from his loneliness. When his owners' car gets into an accident on the highway, the lizard is thrown out on his own, stuck in the middle of the desert. When an armadillo (voiced by Alfred Molina) tells him to seek out the small town of Dirt, the lizard sets out into the desert, narrowly avoiding his demise on a number of occasions. He meets a female lizard named Beans (voiced by Isla Fisher) who reluctantly agrees to take him to the town. Once there, the lizard has a difficult time fitting in with the townsfolk, so he devises a clever plan to win their approval. Taking the name "Rango," he starts to offer a lot of big talk about his storied past as a gunslinger. When he ineptly defeats a desert hawk, the townspeople rally around him, and the mayor (voiced by Ned Beatty) quickly appoints him the town's new sheriff. Rango learns that the town's water supply is quickly running out, and when the remaining water is stolen from the bank, he and a number of his fellow "Dirtonians" take to the desert to find the culprit and right the fortunes of their downtrodden home.

Rather than go into full-fledged movie nerd mode and drool all over this movie, I'd like to say my overall reaction in a clear and concise way: Rango is one of the best animated films I've ever seen, and it's easily earned its place among one of the best films I've ever had the privilege to view. Now that I've gotten that out, let's start with a little bit about the screenplay. In a sense, we've got your standard ideal for a western. A lone man comes into town and saves the day for the townspeople. Sounds about right, doesn't it? But there's so much more going on here. The dialogue is pitch-perfect; it's exactly what you'd hear and expect from a western-type flick. On that same token, however, it never really feels stale. The dialogue is fresh, and considering we have a very eccentric character as our lead, we get a very animated and lively execution. Every character is so well-written, and nearly every stereotypical western character is included.

There's not much I can say about the voice acting other than it's absolutely astounding. Depp is phenomenal as our lead, providing essentially two different characters: this unnamed, wannabe thespian desperate for attention and "human" interaction, and Rango, a gunslinger who talks the talk and walks the walk. The ease with which he transitions between the two different personas is also astounding. I could go on and on about all of the fantastic voice performances (and all of the actors I've already mentioned definitely fall into that category), but I'll just list a couple other characters and names who also deserve some commendation: a mouse named Priscilla (Abigail Breslin); Rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy); a gila monster named Bad Bill (Ray Winstone); and the Spirit of the West (Timothy Olyphant). In case you can't tell, we've got an all-star cast that totally delivers.

I'd also like to take a minute to talk about the music in the film, which is also pitch-perfect. Hans Zimmer provided the orchestral score, and it fits seamlessly with the sweeping scores of westerns past. However, a special commendation must be made for Los Lobos, who provide a number of original pieces for the film. They're fantastic songs that channel some older western themes.

Roger Ebert wrote in his four-star review that he thought that Rango would appeal to viewers who are well-versed in film. After watching the movie, I wholeheartedly agree. Despite being an animated film, I think that Rango serves more as a film for adults than children. Yeah, there's a lot in the film for kids to enjoy - slapstick moments and a fart joke, I believe - but there's so many references to past westerns that I think adults should be more of the target audience. A lot of the references are small (in the look of certain characters and such), but here's a list of the ones I caught right away (and not all are westerns, don't worry!): Apocalypse Now; Blazing Saddles; Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; High Noon; Stagecoach; and True Grit. I'm sure there's a lot more than just that, but I'm not perfect, alright?

Seriously, I want to just tell you to drop everything you do and go watch this movie right now. However, if you're not as well-versed with film as I am, I don't know whether you'll appreciate it as much as I did. Then again, maybe you'll find other reasons to love it. Like I said: there's a brilliant storyline and a brilliant list of actors lending their voice talents to the film. And the animation is rather stellar, to be honest. There's so much to love about Rango; I just hope you love it as much as I did.

Movie Review Summary:Grade: A
Current All-Time Rank: Best - #45
2 Thumbs Up

2011, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, animated, Bill Nighy, Gore Verbinski, Hans Zimmer, Isla Fisher, Johnny Depp, movie review, Ned Beatty, Oscar win, Rango, Timothy Olyphant, and more:

Relevant to: RANGO + western