Reviewed By Daniel Kelly
Posted 05/10/11 19:45:00

"If it looks, sounds and feels like must be ILM."
5 stars (Awesome)

It’s no secret that Pixar have dominated the animation game over the last 10 years, but that could change with the arrival of ILM’s first addition to the genre “Rango”. A tremendously charming effort, “Rango” also sizzles with a palpable sense of adventure, delivering more thrills than most live action blockbusters. Adding to the film’s quality is a game voice cast, all of whom commit flawlessly to their roles. It’s a delicious slice of cinematic confection, benefiting from some of the sharpest animation I’ve ever enjoyed.

After a car accident leaves him freed for the first time in his life, a chameleon (Johnny Depp) with a penchant for the performing arts is left stranded in the desert. Coming across a gun slinging western community called Dirt, he is forced to reinvent himself, creating a heroic alter ego named Rango as a result. After partaking in a fluke act of fearlessness, Rango is granted the position of sheriff and is tasked with maintaining order and guarding the town’s water supply during a fierce ongoing drought. When the water goes missing, Rango is forced to round up a group of local misfits and help track it down, the chameleon discovering danger and a treacherous conspiracy in the process.

“Rango” isn’t necessarily a great film for kids, but mature audiences are bound to love it. Screenwriter John Logan clearly penned “Rango” as a love letter to the spaghetti western, stocking it with cute genre references and even surreal dream sequences. The film still offers some spectacularly funny slapstick, but ultimately one gets the impression that Logan never really had the younger demographics in mind. Instead “Rango” is aimed squarely at smart and fun loving adults, a group likely to cherish this movie for years to come.

Johnny Depp is incredibly good in the title role, providing the production with not just a sensational funny bone but also a soulful centre. The goofy character design definitely helps, but Depp’s comic timing and infinite energy shine through in “Rango”, indeed it wouldn’t be ridiculous to argue that it’s the best performance the actor has given since 2009’s “Public Enemies”. The supporting vocalists also do sterling work, namely Bill Nighy as the terrifying Rattlesnake Jake and Ned Beatty as Dirt’s suspicious tortoise Mayor. Both of the actors inject bundles of personality into proceedings, which combined with the film’s meticulous and alarmingly realistic digital structure allows for a truly immersive experience. It’s proof that commanding voice work will always trump 3D when it comes to drawing viewers in.

Director Gore Verbinski delivers a beautiful looking film with “Rango”; the cinematography is lush and the standard of animation unmatched. Verbinski also shows a welcome willingness to get a little silly, the hilarious opening scene and the numerous amusing musical interludes featured are just a few examples of the fertile comedy “Rango” provides. Of course like Pixar’s best outings “Rango” also boasts an admirable line in more ambitious filmmaking. There’s a refined yet satisfying romantic side to the project (the object of Rango’s affections portrayed warmly by Isla Fisher) and the finale is phenomenally exhilarating. Verbinski pitches the conclusion as a moment of redemption, wrapping it all up with some of the finest action yet supplied in 2011. Indeed all of the set-pieces in “Rango” are filled with a sense of purpose and visual coherence, a rarity in any Hollywood commodity these days

The film’s middle section is perhaps too baggy, but there’s really little else to complain about in “Rango”. It’s a superlative tribute to the Wild West, primed with a true sense of originality. “Rango” once again marks Verbinski as force to be reckoned with (having somewhat put his reputation in doubt courtesy of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequels), the director exercising both his skill with action and rampant visual creativity here. It’s an undeniably quirky article, but “Rango” establishes itself as a must-see enterprise from the very start.

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