I saw this on Tuesday and was rather surprised. I was expecting yet another CGI movie that was aimed at adults but accessible to kids, but this one had a little bit something more to it.
On the one hand this is a love letter to Westerns. On the other it’s a quest for identity. It’s no accident that Johnny Depp’s character is a chameleon, but he’s a slightly cracked stir-crazy pet chameleon with an identity crisis. He doesn’t even have a name until he invents one: Rango.
This is the kind of movie I would have liked as a kid, because it doesn’t shirk away from death. Two characters are shown to be dead and many others are presumed to be so. This is often a bone of contention with me because even as a kid I always called BS on the need for kid shows to always avoid such things, often to ludicrous extremes. What I call the GI Joe Factor.
That said it can be argued this isn’t a kids movie at all. The pace at times might be too slow for children, with not enough humor along their lines to grasp. There’s just as much subtlety as there is over the top zaniness. The action scenes will no doubt keep them entranced, but a lot of that doesn’t happen until later.
For the movie lover there are references aplenty (including Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas, what kid is ever going to understand THAT reference?) and of course all the cliches you expect from westerns, spaghetti or otherwise.
If I have any complaints at all, it’s that they could have gone just one little step further and end the film questioning whether it was all in the Rango’s head or not. Believe me when I say there are enough surreal moments in this film that you could entirely believe Rango died right at the beginning and all that transpired afterwards was him finding himself before passing to the other side. But the ending doesn’t go that way. It has a good ending, but a little dark Inception like edge couldn’t have hurt, either.
Still, I highly recommend it as an antithesis to the standard (and sub-standard) CGI that’s otherwise available this year.