Monday, March 14, 2011

"Rango," An adult "kids'" animated flick (Thumbs UP!)

It’s been several weeks since the local quadplex mall theater has shown a kids’ movie. Finally, the other day, “Rango” came to town and we happily took the kids to see it. In a nutshell, the kids liked it while I LOVED it; BUT, I wouldn’t exactly call it a “kids’ movie.”

I was fully expecting a cutesy children’s story about talking lizards, and it kind of is; but in no way is this a mere cornball kid’s cartoon movie. The main character, voiced by Johnny Depp, is a bug-eyed chameleon named Rango. The first scene establishes his whimsical yet cultured nature as he does a self-directed soliloquy of a play or movie scene with a fellow cast consisting of a dead cricket and a fish toy. His pathetic weak side becomes evident when his entire world as a kept pet comes to an abrupt, literally crashing end when his terrarium gets bumped out of the back window of the family car on a two-lane highway in the middle of a searing Nevada desert. The defining journey of Rango’s, up to that moment, lonely life, begins at that moment; and that is the incredible journey the viewer follows in watching the movie.

Depp “speaks” this part perfectly. He talks fast; he has to, there’s a LOT of dialogue to get in. Depp almost does his lines as a string of mumbles, except that he has the ability to make every quick and quietly delivered underplayed word quite understandable. But the really cool thing is the LEVEL of the discourse; it’s nonstop clever, and the vernacular, in script form, probably reads to at least the 10th grade level (the average American adult reads at the 9th grade level).

You really have to listen and focus as you watch this flick if you expect to follow even half of the double-entendres, play on words, puns, jokes and subtle references, much of which are quite “adult.” I’d say that most of the really good stuff goes right over the heads of the kids taking in the flick. Of course, the same could probably be said about most of my fellow movie going grownup citizens (present company excluded of course!).

It’s no wonder Depp accepted this gig. It must have been a joy to perform; probably as much fun as portraying the coolly complicated Jack Sparrow character from the Pirates of the Caribbean series. But there’s nothing of Captain Jack’s panache in this film, far from it; instead, Rango’s persona reminds me of Don Knotts while his situation is that of Don Quixote.

Rango’s quick tongue, used to spouting Shakespearean-like passages in his earlier make-believe world when he was still just a family pet, gets him mixed up in dangerous things in his NEW desert world, perilous things that are WAY more than this quietly simple lizard would ever have had to deal with in the lonely limited confines of his old glass terrarium.

And that’s the fun of the movie, because in the end, he figures out that there’s more to him than he ever suspected. Then again, he doesn’t come to this realization on his own; he receives puzzlingly enigmatic guidance from an old Mexican Armadillo, as well as from a Clint Eastwood looking and sounding “Man with no name” human type character called “The Spirit of the West,” not to mention the inspiration and strength he gets from Miss Beans, his lizard love interest.

We’ve come to expect awesome graphics in animated features these days and this one does not disappoint in that respect; but what really tickled me was the development of the celluloid creature characters. The artists who invented the look of these critters must have been inspired by some of the art work done in some of the old Mad Magazine spreads where the ugly and the odd was the entire point of the magazine.

Just as in the style of the old MAD Magazine characters, the Rango movie ones aren’t cute by any stretch of the imagination; in fact, they aren’t the sicky-sweet characters we usually get in MOST animated films of the day. What they ARE is impressively ugly, but in a really fresh quirky way.

Because of the refreshingly, slightly repulsive look of the characters, this film will most certainly NOT appeal to really young kids; but it SHOULD appeal to kids 7years old and older, including 53 year old kids like me. Coz I’m here to tell you—this flick was fun. I have a feeling that this one will achieve cult following type status fairly quickly. And I won't even wait; count me as one of those cult movie type followers, like right now. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm going to go see it again; it's that good.

Oh, and my 7 year old boy also loved the movie; mostly because he loves animals. If you have one of those, a kid obsessed with fish, foul and fauna, by all means take 'em!


Anonymous said...

Right on but I need a literary and movie type to tell me what classics other than Don Quixote and High Noon are in there. Shakespearean sounds are there but I do not know SS well enough to ID the references. Depp goes deep.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Okedoke Bob, guess I'm too shallow for ya then. Good luck with that buddy. chuckle...