Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Rango and the Vacation Blues

Last week I took a luxurious and much needed vacation. By luxurious I mean I took a magical journey to the land of my couch and by much needed I mean I would have died if it did not happen sooner. Maybe it's the evil ways of winter, the absence of sunlight (SAD FTW!) or maybe my heavy duty sandwich eating has finally caught up with me. We may in fact never know, but what I do know is that sitting around and doing nothing for a week is pretty neat.

While sitting around and being useless, I decided to pry myself off the couch and finally do something that I've been wanting to do for a long time. Go to the movies alone. Sure, many of you probably laugh at my goal--you probably have no problem going it alone and do it often. But because I'm often anxious about doing things alone and always worried that perhaps something WEIRD will happen like... a scary man will sit next to me and I'll have no one to turn to for help OR maybe a small child will be a real asshole and being alone prevents me from gaining the courage to yell at their parents WHO KNOWS. All I know is that I've always wanted to do it, but hadn't ever and I feel incomplete because of it.

So on Wednesday, I got my umbrella and walked to the movie theater to enjoy a rainy matinee showing of Rango. Nothing else good was playing so don't yell at me and besides...I'm pretty sure a cartoon is way better than Little Red Riding Hood. Anyways--Rango it was and Rango I enjoyed.

Rango is not a horror film--I realize this. BUT it was in fact directed by Gore Verbinski who other than having a deep burning obsession with Johnny Depp, is also responsible for the Americanized version of The Ring. Therefore I will be talking about Rango.

I wasn't sure what to expect with Rango. All I really knew was that Johnny Depp was Rango and that parents were angry that the movie might be responsible for getting kids to smoke. That is why I was most surprised when I realized how oddly dark the film was. It seemed to me that the least worrisome aspect of the film was the smoking. Shouldn't parents be more huffy about the adult jokes, all the gun violence and the fact that several of the animal characters die? Keep in mind that these were all elements that I loved about the film but I still find it odd that smoking was the big bad wolf of the situation.

The story follows Rango, an average chameleon who sadly realizes that he has no true purpose in life. Then out of the blue a freak accident causes his tank to fall out of the car, and Rango is alone in the desert. As he wanders into Dirt, the old west style animal town--Rango soon creates a new somebody to be and receives the coveted job of sheriff. Soon Rango finds that something shady is going on in Dirt, someone is taking all the water and being a real asshole. But can Rango, the once average chameleon really save an entire town?

Anywho. Rango IS dark. I found it to be much more adult than I ever anticipated, which made me feel a lot better about being the only person there without a child. The most surprising aspect as hinted at above however, was the fact that animals die!

I was reminded during Rango, of how relieved I was in UP when the evil dogs fell off the cliff and were shown swimming away apparently safe. Even though they were mean dogs, I still probably would have cried had I imagined them to be drowning and dead in the watery grave below. Good old Disney however knows that dead animals can only occur when it is an important plot device--like Mufasa and Bambi's Mother.

This is why the deaths in Rango caught me so off guard. One minute we're laughing at the great big toad/frog thing (what was that anyways?)

and the next, it's swooped up in the talons of a hawk never to be seen or heard from again. Later the hawk does battle with Rango and gets crushed, its talons and wings sticking out of the rubble at grotesque angles. Also, the head banker of Dirt is found dead and animal warfare with guns apparently does involve dead animals. If you think about it...there was more carnage in Rango than in most PG-13 horror films. This was oddly refreshing. It's nice to see an animated film not feel restricted by the bullshit standards created by Disney. In the real world, in the real west--animals die. Who knows if they actually do use guns or not but if they did, they'd be dead. Simple fact.

Perhaps my favorite moment of the film was shortly after Rango makes his dramatic and accidental escape from the car. He hears the voice of someone and the camera shifts suddenly to focus on an armadillo. Run over straight through the middle, his body just barely still in one piece.

There was an audible gasp from the audience that caught me off guard. People didn't expect that because it was a truly almost--gory moment. And that my friends--is neat.

Also insanely neat is the visual imagery going on. There were moments in Rango that made me want to jump up and down, grab a small child and say, "THIS, this is what creativity looks like!". In particular, a hallucinating-ish dream sequence bore a strong resemblance to something Salvador Dali would create. It was creepy, dark and beautiful and I loved every minute of it.

What's more--Johnny Depp was practically unrecognizable as the timid yet eccentric Rango. I expected something weird and just a smidgen of Captain Jack Sparrow to shine through, but what I got was a real and honest character. The thematic importance surrounding Rango and how he creates who he is--is startling. Rango repeats the line "Who am I?" with weight. He appears in the beginning as an average chameleon. He doesn't even have a name at first--but his persona of Rango quickly begins to take over. He is a chameleon in every definition of the word. Blending in with the people of Dirt almost immediately and sort of by accident. There's a lot of smart going on in Rango and I'm not entirely sure people are aware of it.

So in closing, I highly, HIGHLY recommend you see Rango. It's a surprise, it has meaning and it's frickin awesome. Don't be fooled by its childlike facade, Rango is in fact a movie for adults as well. It's possibly even more of an adult movie than a kids one....but we can debate on that later.

Still need convincing?

In a pivotal moment, when Rango meets face to face with the Spirit of the West (a burly man in a sparkling white golf cart, voiced by Timothy Olyphant!) he asks him if they're in heaven.

The Spirit of the West replies,

"If it were, wouldn't we be eating strawberry Pop-Tarts with Kim Novak?"

See? Kids movie my ass.


BRENT said...

Great review on avery good movie. I'm very pleased to see so many adults finally waking up to animation. Rango is definitely not for the kids. The sesion I saw the kids were bored by Rango and the adults loving it.
I'm an unabashed lover of aniation and I think Rango is probably the most amazing animated film made. The detail is astounding and I've made several trips to my local theatre to glory in it.
Oh yeah! Great pic of Kim Novak! My god she was a stuning looking woman in her day wasn't she?

The Mike said...

Effing Kim Novak??? My heart now skips beats.

OK, I'm seeing it.

Christine Hadden said...

Not just Johnny but Timothy Olyphant as well?!?!
Well color me happy, I've simply GOT to see it now, even if it is just voices ;)