Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Movie Review: Rango

Rango isn't a movie for kids.

This doesn't mean that kids won't enjoy it - or even that they shouldn't see it - but rather that, setting aside the fact that it's an animated feature revolving around anthopomorphic animals, it wasn't made for them.

The reason Rango works as a movie - and it does work quite well - mainly comes down to the setting, which is unusually sophisticated. You've likely picked up that it's a western from the trailer, however this is only part of the story. This is a western about westerns, film, and fiction. The fact that the main characters are animals is not incidental to the story, nor is it accidental that, while the animals exist in a town reminiscent of the old west, humans have moved on to modern cities.

Like the best animated films, Rango allows the comedy to emerge from the story, rather than imposing. The movie is certainly funny, but more than that it's intriguing. There's a logic to how and why events unfold, just as there's a sort of poetry to the visuals.

As many have noted, Rango wasn't released in 3D, a rarity these days for CG animation. While this is notable in and of itself, it's more significant in the context of the film. The concept of the movie screen plays a part in Rango. The movie celebrates the idea that a screen is a window of sorts. To turn around and break that window would have negated the effect. That the director was somehow able to convey this to the studio is nothing short of miraculous.

Rango is a fascinating film well worth seeing. It celebrates its genre and meduim to a degree that's rare in any kind of film.

If it has a flaw, it's in the characters, none of which are all that likeable. But Rango isn't really about its characters, anyway: it's about their world.

Against five star films like The Incredibles or Finding Nemo, we'll award Rango a relative four. We expect that some people will like this movie more than others, but we find it hard to imagine many geeks who won't at least respect the thought and care (not to mention the guts - when was the last time you saw characters smoking in an animated movie?) that went into Rango.

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