Rango

Oh, Gore. Gore, Gore, Gore.

You’re trying too hard.

It looks like Captain Jack Sparrow is now a lizard. Either that or characters are now written so that they can BE Johnny Depp.

I saw Rango today during my lunch break. While it is currently ranked #5 on my list of movies released in 2011, keep in mind that the only two movies below Rango on that list are Source Code and Limitless.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s a perfectly enjoyable film, filled with clever dialogue, interesting characters, a complex story line, and it is visually quite arresting. But maybe I’ve just reached saturation point of Johnny Depp-ness.

The deets:

Released March 4, 2011

Written by John Logan, Gore Verbinski, and James Ward Byrkit

Directed by Gore Verbinski

Starring Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty, Harry Dean Stanton and many others

*     *     *     *    *

Rango is the story of a lonely guy who wishes he were an actor playing a heroic role, who finds himself being a lucky liar playing a heroic role, who then ends up wanting to be a real hero and accidentally gets the job done.

The guy is a domesticated chameleon with no name, voiced by Johnny Depp. He is a smart lizard who resembles Johnny Depp in personality and manner more than he resembles a reptile. He is clever, very well informed by culture and theater, and is very quick on his feet. He also seems to have a remarkable ability to stay unhurt while getting other people into very sticky situations.

This is why I don’t like this type of film. I know we’re supposed to be charmed by the lizard’s manner and crazy-quick witticisms, but he’s a ne’er-do-well who seems totally incapable of caring about the consequences his actions have for other people. Now, he is in fact charming, and very funny, and his personality is a great contrast to the rustic, old-west town and culture he finds himself in. And it’s useful for the character to start as a rogue and then undergo changes toward hero.

But Mr. Verbinski was trying too hard, as were the writers. The lizard is just too clever, his success is too accidental and the success of his final plan depends far too much on chance. He is just a lizard, but he was the hero of the film, and yes, he is an anti-hero like Capt. Jack Sparrow, but I want my protagonist to dig deep, find something extraordinary in themselves, and overcome the worst in themselves to become something better and improve the world around them.

There are some great aspects to this film. The four-owl mariachi band is a clever way to remove the fourth wall and keep the story skipping along. But they tried too hard and their pronouncements of the lizard’s death become artificial for any intelligent viewer. The homages to old westerns are much appreciated, including the love for Eastwood’s The Man with No Name. The visuals are stupendously wonderful. They are fabulous, precise and dizzyingly lovely at times. They are unexpected and tasty.

Furthermore, the clever characters sometimes do unexpected things, which is good, because so do real people. The voice actors do a lovely job imbuing the critters with a humanity that we can’t help but enjoy.

But in amongst all the excellent work I’ve described, the lizard, who adopts the name ‘Rango’ partway through the film never does much that will endear him to viewers. He’s no Woody or Buzz Lightyear, because he doesn’t really ever seem to care, despite the stakes that are involved.

Add to all of that the unfortunate fact that the second act lags significantly, and the movie is not the exuberant ride I expected.

And when the movie comes to a close, you feel a little cheated. It’s like the feeling that you get when you listen to a Fall Out Boy song. Yes, the lyrics are clever and the music is skillfully done, and it’s even quite catchy, but it is ultimately pointless and in no way satisfying.

Pens (writing): 2

Cameras (acting (voice-acting, of course)):4.5

Screens (the entire experience): 3

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About jared

Jared Garrett works as a writer, the manager of a program development department in the corporate world, and an instructional designer. He is a family man with an adorable, fun, and way-too-smart wife, six silly kids, a new house with an overgrown back yard, seven fish, and a bunch of chickens. He has written fiction, user manuals, SEO copy, radio scripts and textbooks and has won first place in the Mayhew writing contest at BYU and received honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest. He lives at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains and is currently seeking representation for his myriad completed novels.
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