Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 08 March 2011
- Written by Jacqueline Monahan
Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for Lasvegasroundtheclock.com
A bug-eyed chameleon with acting pretensions finds himself in the Mojave Desert with water on his mind and a hawk on his tail. He makes his way into the tiny, dusty town of Dirt, strolls into its crowded saloon and enthralls the patrons with his fabricated stories of courageous gunmanship. He is promptly made Sheriff and sets about to solve the mystery of Dirt’s disappearing water supply.
That’s all you have to know. Well, that fact and that this is a 2-D film, no special glasses required. The animation style could be described as “gangly-grotesque” with distortions and exaggerations afflicting every creature feature so that they are stylized versions of themselves.
The quest for water consumes our intrepid Rango (Johnny Depp, voice) as he encounters a shady desert tortoise mayor (Ned Beatty, voice) Beans, a feisty desert iguana (Isla Fisher) Priscilla, an adoring cactus mouse (Abigail Breslin, voice) and a large mole/prairie dog family full of criminal critters led by the repugnant Balthazar (Harry Dean Stanton, voice).
Usually these types of fables have at least one sage, and here it’s an armadillo named Roadkill (Alfred Molina, voice) with a penchant for being run over by vehicles on the highway while seeking something called the Spirit of the West. He resembles Don Quixote, too. A quartet of singing mariachi owls narrates the rambling plot.
Intrigued? Rango will hook you in, but you’ll get hung up around the mid-point where the storyline meanders like a wayward stream.
There’s a trail of corruption that Rango must discover, follow and confront. He must do battle not only with his fellow reptiles, amphibians, and mammals but with his own deceit and cowardice. He’s in line for a big, fat epiphany, too.
In the sweltering, sun-seared desert Rango encounters the Spirit of the West (Timothy Olyphant, voice), a leathery, poncho-wearing drifter spouting philosophy. Things are never the same after that, and the proverbial floodgates open wide.
Depp relishes his geeky chameleon counterpart, giving him a nebbish timbre and false bravado. Isla Fisher is country enough to out-twang the hill folk of any region and Alfred Molina’s Spanish accent is soothing.
Timothy Olyphant does a mean Eastwood (is there any other kind) and Ned Beatty can summon corruption in his well-modulated voice like it’s his valet. Harry Dean Stanton puts the geezer in Balthazar’s menace, making him more sympathetic than he deserves. Bill Nighy makes a late appearance as ultra-outlaw Rattlesnake Jake, and Ray Winstone is Gila monster Bad Bill, cockney accent as thick as his character’s skull.
Director Gore Verbinski (Mouse Hunt) keeps his film low on sentiment and high on greed, subterfuge and pugilism. Despite its (inevitable) formula, it maintains an originality that can hold interest like a reservoir. This is hydration animation, after all.
The film is refreshing despite its sizzling drought. You’ll be both mesmerized and repulsed by the visuals and snicker at the snideness as you wander around with the rambling plot, but not mind too much.
Isn’t that what deserts are made for?