“Rango” tells the story of Rango (Johnny Depp), a theatrical chameleon who fools an entire town into thinking he’s a crime-stopping sheriff. But when crime shows up, Rango has to walk the walk and figure out who exactly he is as a man, as a lizard, and as a hero. It’s a modern-day masterpiece.
Directed by Gore Verbinski, the film’s cast is impeccable. Johnny Depp, who collaborated with Verbinski on the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, voices the titular lizard. Isla Fischer plays Beans, Rango’s love interest, and Bill Nighy, Stephen Root, and Abigail Breslin round out the rest of the cast.
Evidenced from the BTS video, “Rango” was unconventional in its recording process. Instead of each actor going into the booth and recording their lines, the cast acted out each scene, almost like a stage-play. It’s hilarious to watch, particularly Johnny Depp and his cache of colorful scarves.
The hard-work paid off because the end result, in my opinion, is one of the best animated films of the 21st century. But I wouldn’t call it a kids movie. There’s a quirkiness in “Rango” perhaps not explored in other adolescent films and an adult sense of humor definitely not explored in other adolescent films. Verbinski stated that that the film was largely influenced by the works of Hunter S. Thompson, which is evident by the central themes involving government corruption and society’s blind trust in authority – yea, one of those kid’s movies.
At its core, Rango is a story about identity. Chameleons are designed to blend in, but what if one wants to stand out? This is the internal dilemma plaguing the eponymous chameleon and it’s traversed expertly by Depp and Verbinski. There’s one scene in particular between Rango and “The Spirit of the West, a folk legend whose really just a Clint Eastwood wannabe (voiced expertly by Timothy Olyphant). The two have an existential discussion about the purpose of life, concluding with the Spirit delivering my favorite line of the film, “You can’t walk out on your own story.” What other kids movie provided that much emotional and spiritual depth in a single line? “Minions?” “Minions 2?” Hell no!
Understandably, “Rango” is a forgotten gem of the early 2000’s. It’s a children’s movie made for adults and has more in common with “Chinatown” than “Toy Story.” Yet, its brilliance shouldn’t go unseen. The film is currently streaming on Netflix and I highly recommend watching it. Everyone can find something they love about “Rango,” regardless of age, gender, or species.