Is there any role that Johnny Depp can’t play? Now adding a cowboy chameleon to his list of characters, skeptics are beginning to think not. In his newest venture, Johnny Depp — the actor who brought us beloved characters like Sweeney Todd, Willy Wonka, Edward Scissorhands and Captain Jack Sparrow — has taken the role of Rango. While being an animated character, Rango may be one of Johnny Depp’s most complex characters.
The film opens with a monologue narrated by Latino Mariachi owls, who tell the story of Rango via song; these owls let the audience know from the get-go that the story of Rango is a complex one wherein a stranger is thrust into a new direction by fate. These owls may be some of the funniest characters in the movie, and the detail put into them is extraordinary, with their mariachi outfits, Latin accents and even mustaches to fit each of their personalities.
Rango is a chameleon who dabbles in the performing arts, spending his time acting to avoid his loneliness. When Rango finds himself losing sight of who he is, a twist of fate thrusts him from his sheltered life in his aquarium into the Mojave Desert. Rango, through the help of a friendly Mexican armadillo, finds his way through the desert to a small town where he believes he can find water — the city of “Dirt.”
The city of Dirt is filled with many colorful characters of various species found in the Mojave Desert, from a tortoise and lizard to an opossum and a buzzard, who are played by well-known voice actors such as Isla Fisher and Abigail Breslin, among many others. Dirt is a small western town in the middle of the desert on the verge of becoming a ghost town, as the city is slowly drying up.
From the moment Rango finds the city, he knows that he is different, from the way he walks to the way he talks. In a moment of epiphany, Rango decides that he can act the part of a tough gun-slinging killer he cleverly names “Rango” to try and fit in for the first time in his life. He unknowingly becomes the center of attention, and when the city’s small supply of water is stolen, it becomes his sole responsibility to find the suspects and to solve the mystery of the disappearing water, while finding himself in the process.
As usual, nothing about Johnny Depp’s films is quite normal. This movie, although it was always designed to be an animated film, was recorded with the actors performing and interacting with each other in a studio. For voiceover characters it is rarely heard of to attempt and record the actors outside of a well-insulated recording studio, but for this cast they decided that it would be better to act out the entire movie with one another, recording their voices and partially animating the movements of the actors afterward. Johnny Depp and the rest of the cast stood on a blank stage with water guns and minimal props, and acted out the entire film. The large impact that this wonderful idea had on the performances are heard in the fluidity of the voices. This seamless performance, paired with the amazing cinematography and lifelike special effects, brought this film to another level.
Although this film has a lot of ups, it also has a few slow moments. When comparing Depp’s comedic performance to others in the past, “Rango” is much more complex and sophisticated, which entails more dry humor. At 107 minutes, the movie is also a little lengthy for an animated film, and at some points it may seem like a little too much of a good thing with the animators merely adding an extra two or three minutes to a scene to show their skills.
Overall, the movie is entertaining and the special effects deliver, but Rango sticks out as a little lengthy and dry at some points.
Rating: 4/5 Stars