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March 03, 2011

‘Rango’ review: Old West mash-up rewrites animation playbook

Posted in: Movies

Los Angeles Times film critic Betsy Sharkey says Gore Verbinski’s first animated feature crackles with innovation …

rango Rango review: Old West mash up rewrites animation playbook

"Rango" (Paramount Pictures)

A marvelous mash-up of Old West and newfangled, “Rango” rewrites the animation playbook with its eye-popping critters and varmints, and its hero’s tale (tail?) of a chameleon desperate for a SAG card and a town desperate for a sheriff. What fun.

In a world choked with animated films — the good, the bad and the ugly — it’s hard to be either original or great. Yet director Gore Verbinski has done both — and without 3-D — breaking the rules and new ground in the town of Dirt. In this time-bending, mind-bending, just-go-with-it fable, the story shifts from overcrowded freeways, Hawaiian shirts and modern problems to covered wagons, chaps and long-running issues of water rights, land grabs and greed. And, in a genuinely funny way, it all makes sense.

There were early signs of a mind that likes to operate off the grid in “Mousehunt,” the first feature Verbinski directed. As a film it failed, but its string factory, decaying manse and devious mouse were strangely captivating anyway. Things finally jelled in the clever conceits he ginned up while directing the first three installments of “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and he couldn’t have done better than to get Jack Sparrow to go fully animated. With Johnny Depp as the voice of Rango, get ready to be charmed from the first moments in the terrarium where, as Lars, he’s passing time reading lines with a broken Barbie and dreaming of the big time…


— Betsy Sharkey


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