Rango is Johnny Depp's latest attempt at portraying a quasi-capable, hero figure that is high in self deprecating humor and is forever threatening to break the fourth wall. Bookended by the most adorably sinister, strigine mariachi quartet, Rango is a funny tale about an accidental hero, his dramatic follies and his redemption.

The story is by no means wildly inventive. Picture a man (or lizard) who is predisposed to self-indulgent fantasy, that does something unexpectedly heroic and is instantly the savior of the populace of a small town in the middle of the desert. Then a mystery comes along that requires the hero to actually do something, and while he is still trying to come to grips with it, a series of unfortunate circumstances exposes him to be the fraud that he is. He then has to fight his own insecurities before solving the mystery and exposing the evil doers while winning the heart of the dame that always believed in him. Yes, I know, that could have been any number of movies.

What makes Rango different is that it does not hide behind the storyline, instead has the cast take digs at it irreverently. As if they are with you in knowing how ordinary the plot is, yet imploring you to come along for the ride because, hey, it is fun.

And fun it is. The first thing that strikes you is the detail in the movie. Yes, Cars has done this before, but there is a certain rawness to the desert renditions in this movie. The characters - all animals a la Animal Farm - are pockmarked with experience and dearth, yet are simple at heart. Jake the rattlesnake (Bill Nighy) is one of the favorite characters in a long time, not just for his most awesome rattler, but also because his serpentine nobility at the end. Beans (Isla Fisher) and her defense mechanism are hilarious. The turtle Mayor (Ned Beatty) is gravelly and spot on.

The other reason I loved the movie was the way it was able to portray the stark contrast of absurdity that is Las Vegas. When we had gone to Vegas last, I was struck by the unbelievable difference between the natural habitat of the place and the verdancy created by man. Rango at its core tells the same story but with no sermonizing and zero finger pointing. It is just a tale of animals trying to survive in the harsh water-less environs.

This is a fun Depp movie. If you like irreverent westerns you will love this movie. When you have a chameleon, that has a taste for the thespian, and is trying to blend in - there is not much that can really go wrong. Or can it? Guess you will have to watch to find out.

March 16, 2011


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