Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Home, Home on the Rango

Rango 2011 USA
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Now playing
at UK cinemas.

Warning! Yeah... there are probably spoilers in here. If you haven’t seen it by now though you needn’t bother, I reckon.

Unwarning! Ooh, no. You’re okay. Just re-read it and it’s curiously spoiler free. Drive through at your leisure.

Ok... so as I type these words it’s a little under one week since I saw Rango at the cinema (by the time this goes up on my blog it will probably be closer to two because I have a bit of a backlog here at the moment... normal service will be resumed as soon as probable). Now my friend who I went with was laughing away at it and having hysterics but I’m sad to say that it didn’t have anywhere near the same reaction with me (I honestly don’t remember cracking a smile... but then again, I rarely do these days) and the really worrying thing for me, having to write up the film one week later, is that I couldn’t remember anything about it and I just had to watch the two trailers to kinda jog my memory... oh, yeah. It was that one.

Now I don’t see a whole lot of animated fayre these days... I’m more an old school Tom & Jerry or Bugs Bunny kinda person if truth be told (can someone please tell me if my suspicions that carrot chomping Bugs Bunny was based on cigar smoking Grouch Marx are correct?) but I have seen a few and I don’t dislike all of them. I quite liked the first two Toy Story films and I also quite liked the first and third Shrek movies (havent seen number 4 yet). And I absolutely loved Monsters Vs Aliens so, since the movie in question is called Rango... well, I was already to see a brilliant parody of the Django films. Since I knew this was a Western remake of Chinatown starring Johnny Depp as a chameleon lizard, I was waiting to see him drag a coffin around in cavalry uniform and do all sorts of Django-like things.

Sadly, this was not to be. Even though Rango director Gore Verbinski and composer Hans Zimmer both collaborated in a sequence in the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie that parodied the Spaghetti Western quite blatantly and which was, musically speaking, just a little too close to comfort to Ennio Morricone’s scoring for Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In The West. Seriously people... I know temp-trackitus is a modern and seemingly incurable disease but I’m surprised Morricone didn’t sue their asses, the music is that close in structure. Have a listen to “As A Judgement” on any of the Once Upon A Time In The West albums and then listen to “Parlay” on the album release for Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End if you don’t believe me. Astonishing! Did money change hands here?

Anyway... back to my review proper. You’d think Verbinski and Zimmer would do a more than passable parody of those same Western shadings in Rango but, while the tropes and genre markers of various American and Italian Westerns are all present and correct, the film doesn’t quite fall into the usual postmodern trap of eclectic appropriation for the sake of hitting the mark for a certain kind of audience (probably people like me, I’m ashamed to admit) and, while it is to be applauded that story and characterisation are pushed to the fore (as they should be) I personally found myself missing the blatant and, more specific, style of parody which the cinema going audience has become accustomed to in the last twenty or so years.

Now for anyone else these strong points of the movie, and there are many strong points on offer here, would be a sign of how good this movie is... and it is a good movie, whether I liked it or not. A solid piece of movie-making which, if the reaction of my friend and the judgement of other reviewers are anything to go by, is also fortunate enough to be a popular cinema movie and, therefore, a money spinner.

Let’s check the boxes then... Great animation. Check. A microcosmos of a world created for these characters that holds itself together by its own logic and doesn’t fall over when you tug at the strings. Check. A good selection of voice performances. Yes, it has that too. An actual story. Surprisingly another affirmative... so yeah, there’s obviously a lot of good things on offer here. And I obviously should have been really happy with this movie... but I wasn’t. And I can’t quite figure out why, to be honest.

Maybe it’s that I saw it as a movie with an over-reliance on slapstick humour that’s possibly the problem (Ooh. Look at the funny lizard running all over the place arms akimbo and making funny noises!). Or maybe it’s the fact that I found the whole thing emotionally cold and a turn off to the point that... even after the brilliant emotional set-up of the opening sequence with Rango and his, err, companions... I still didn’t care about what happened to any of the characters in this movie. I know... I’m being harsh.

Ok... so I’m going to try and play it fair here. If you want a recommendation from me to go see Rango then you’re not going to get it. But... well this movie seems so well loved by people that I’m going to do something I’ve only ever done here once before and point you in the direction of somebody else’s review so you can see the flip side of my scarred face of the Rango coin. Check out @SquidyUK’s review of Rango here if you want a more enthusiastic and more in-depth look about the various strong points of this movie. Because you won’t find me taking a second look at this movie again on here.


  1. Ha! Glad you spoke your mind. Have to take an eight-year-old neighbor to this & waiting until our schedules coincide, so I speak without extensive knowledge of it. Caring about the characters is a huge part of our viewing and reading experience, so if that is lacking, the film doesn't rise above the pack. The trailers I've seen approach the knowing wink at spaghetti westerns (cue creak of wind-up goldfish crossing road here) but too bad it isn't carried through. I'll let you know when I review it.

  2. Hi Bucko. Yeah, let me know what you think. Everyone else likes it so it's probably just me being a grumpy old so and so.

    Thanks for the comment. Always much appreciated.