Rango Fandango

I just saw Rango, the new animated western populated by anthropomorphic animals and starring the inimitable Johnny Depp voicing the title character, and I thought it was a real hoot. Not only were the voice characterizations superb, but it has some of the best animation I've seen to date—and it's not even 3D!

Directed by Gore Verbinski (who also brought us the three Pirates of the Caribbean movies), this is the story of a hapless chameleon lost in the desert who happens upon the town of Dirt, where water is the coin of the realm and in very short supply. It's an archetypical tale of finding the hero within after spending your life not knowing who you really are.

Verbinski turns the classic western on its head, offering a surrealistic vision unlike any I've seen. Replete with every imaginable cliché—almost too many, in my view—the laughs keep coming throughout the movie's 107 minutes, thanks in part to a great script by John Logan and the exceptional voice talents of Depp, Isla Fisher as Beans (Rango's love interest), Ned Beatty as the corrupt mayor of Dirt, Alfred Molina as the mystical armadillo Roadkill (a surprisingly appropriate name), Bill Nighy as bad guy Rattlesnake Jake, and Timothy Olyphant, who does a spot-on impression of Clint Eastwood as Spirit of the West.

Speaking of Spirit of the West, the animation of that character is incredible—one of the most realistic human faces I've seen. Interestingly, the few other human faces in the movie are not nearly as detailed, a common characteristic of animated movies, leading me to suspect that Spirit of the West might have been derived from actual photography of Eastwood. By contrast, the animal characters have beautifully detailed skin textures and hair and wonderfully expressive faces, and the animated water is particularly striking.

Other than Rango, my favorite characters are four owls in a mariachi band that serves as sort of a cross between the chorus in a Greek play and Mexican correo balladeers. Led by accordion player Señor Flan (voiced by George DelHoyo in a great impression of Antonio Banderas), they sing and speak directly to the audience about what is happening to our hero—though they get it wrong sometimes!

The reviews I've read have been all over the map. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times calls it, "…some kind of miracle: An animated comedy for smart moviegoers, wonderfully made, great to look at, wickedly satirical, and (gasp!) in glorious 2D." On the flip side, Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune says, "It is, for what it is, a work of considerable care and craft. And it's completely soulless." I'm with Ebert on this one.

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Jarod's picture

My wife and I saw it on opening weekend in a digital THX theater on a 70ft screen and we absolutely loved it! Laughed the whole time and we really loved all the characters; the owl mariachi band was one of my favs as well! The animation really was incredible and blew me away from scene to scene. I give it two thumbs up and cannot wait until this gem comes out on Bluray!

Nyal Mellor's picture

Hi Scott

Love the podcast!

I think the reason why you found Rango so interesting is that they actually filmed it as a stage play rather than, as is typical, isolating each actor in a vocal booth to do the voiceover. So the actors were actually interacting with each other and props like they would in a play. The whole thing was recorded and then the animators used the actors expressions to model the animation!

How do I add a picture?!

Nyal Mellor - Acoustic Frontiers LLC

David Vaughn's picture


To add a picture, go to you "My Account" link on the right hand side of the page where you would normally log in. Once there, it's pretty easy to add the picture.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
Thanks for the kind words; glad you like the podcast!

I didn't know they recorded the voices as a stage play, but it makes sense. No wonder it hangs together so well.

David Vaughn is right about adding a photo; it's easy. I hope you do so!

Nyal Mellor's picture

Totally not working for me! 85 x 64 px, 18kb, jpg?

I would ask for the user admin screen to be redesigned, account password and picture should be on separate tabs also you should move the my account links somewhere more prominent and make them like buttons. Very hard to find at the moment where they are!


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