OK, first of all, I want to make something clear: I really enjoyed watching this movie. Perhaps because I couldn’t guess everything that was going to happen despite my critical savvy. How can you predict something that’s basically Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas meets The Man With No Name… with talking animals?? (In case there was any doubt of this, Hunter S. Thompson and Clint Eastwood have cameos in the movie.) Besides, it was really FUNNY. Mostly thanks to Johnny Depp’s lines (and delivery.) I just sat back and had a good time watching it.But now, it’s time to dissect it like a biology class frog.
After a careful study, I realized something. Anybody can make the Vegas/No Name connection; but how many people noticed that this story is basically Flushed Away with a different setting (and species?)
You remember Flushed Away, right? Animated movie done in (fake) claymation style, starring a mouse who accidentally gets flushed down the toilet and discovers a civilization of mice living in the sewers of London? Well, the parallels don’t end there. Consider:
-Both films feature a lonely animal (kept by some humans as a pet) who only realizes the meaninglessness of his existence when accidentally brought out of his home (though Rango may have been more miserable to begin with.)
-Both characters (Flushed’s Roddy and Rango) meet a feisty female character who “tests” them (and later falls in love with them) helping them find themselves.
-Both end up foiling evil plans involving water. There are even scenes involving (sort of) floods!
It’s not like Rango ripped off everything from Flushed, but it’s definitely the same basic story.
What makes Rango stand out is the amount of what-the-heck stuff that happens. You never quite know what’s going to happen next, in fact it looks like its writers intentionally decided to subvert every cliche in the Western genre, most notably with the Owl Mariachis, which btw were both the funniest AND most annoying element in the movie. Every time they showed up I cracked up, then felt like shouting “get on with the movie!!”
The CGI graphics also add to its alien atmosphere. If this had looked like, say, a yogi bear cartoon, everything would have been easier to take. But Rango, with apologies to his fans, was fugly, as were most of the cast (even the mouse girl.) To me anyway. Not bad enough to bother me, but this certainly wasn’t Disney. The graphics also made the action scenes look much more dynamic and real.
But the biggest surprise of all? It’s that the movie works.Not just the funny parts; the ones that are supposed to invoke pity in us for the citizens of the western town (and later, for Rango) are actually touching.
Btw was I the only one disappointed that the big secret of the town turned out to be that it was an (abandoned? Golf course?) I was hoping for something better with all that buildup. Oh well maybe it was another subversion. The plan to win at the end also didn’t seem that smart to me (after all the Snake Villain got away.)
There were some scenes that I felt were too surreal, though: Rango’s hallucinations, the dance at the town square, and the moving trees. The fuck? I guess those were the FALILV tribute parts. Honestly I think the movie would have been better without them.
In general, Rango is a reinvention of Flushed Away with a Western veneer and several twists on known cliches. It’s not the way I would have made it, but that’s what makes it unique. As long as you aren’t turned off by the character’s looks, I recommend it.