The critics heap praise on Johnny Depp's animated reunion with Gore Verbinski.
By Eric Ditzian
With top-notch fare at a minimum at the multiplex during these early months of the years, "Gnomeo & Juliet" has slowly crept up the box-office ranks, starting in the #3 slot and narrowly — by $135,000 — missing out on the top spot last weekend.
This weekend, however, those animated garden statues will make way for a CGI lizard who will dominate the box office. With Johnny Depp voicing the title character and his "Pirates of the Caribbean" director Gore Verbinski at the helm, "Rango" has collected enthusiastic reviews. The only criticism, it seems, is whether the PG flick is most squarely aimed at children or their parents. For that critique and a whole lot of praise, read on.
"Depp plays a zonk-eyed pet lizard traveling cross-country through the Mojave Desert when a freak accident leaves him stranded in the blistering sun. Far removed from his natural habitat, the green-skinned, Hawaiian shirt-wearing reptile finds it virtually impossible to camouflage himself in his new all-brown environment, choosing instead to pass for something he's not, a fearless gunfighter named Rango. With no real-world experience but a near-inexhaustible supply of good luck, Rango looks exactly like what the naively optimistic denizens of Dirt need right now: a hero. Their old-timey desert outpost is beset by predators and ruled by a corrupt mayor (Ned Beatty, playing a less huggable villain than he did in 'Toy Story 3'), who clearly has a hand in the mysterious drought making all their lives miserable." — Peter Debruge, Variety
"The technical production sparkles. The first feature-length animation from Industrial Light and Magic effects studio, 'Rango' is a holiday for the eye. Its action is set against grandiose, panoramic Southwest landscapes, whose epic vistas are rendered in rich color and vivid detail. Every mote of dust in a shaft of light, each facet in a barroom shot glass, the individual wrinkles in Rango's reptilian skin — there's not a pixel on the screen that hasn't been art-directed to within an inch of its life. The action sequences are dizzying, death-defying marvels. The animated cast — a menagerie of gila monsters, horned toads, rattlers, rats and other frontier wildlife — is sharply individualized and expressive. The lizard's asymmetrical poker face, with pop-eyed peepers that rotate like gun turrets, isn't very mobile in human terms, yet it's effortlessly easy to read." — Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune
The Comparison to Other Animated Flicks
"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." — Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times
"[I]t's completely soulless. I may be in the minority. But seeing this sour riff on everything from to 'Cat Ballou' to 'Chinatown' to 'The Shakiest Gun in the West,' with a big suburban preview audience, was instructive. Not much laughter. Moans and sobs of pre-teen fright whenever Rattlesnake Jake slithered into view, threatening murder. Any one crowd's response to any movie may not be indicative; nonetheless the audience's mood seemed in synch with my own." — Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
The Final Word
"[T]he spirit is closer to those old Bugs Bunny cartoons in which Bugs would cross paths with real movie stars or perform Wagnerian opera. In other words, it is not self-conscious knowingness that drives 'Rango' but rather a quirky and sincere enthusiasm for all the strange stuff that has piled up in the filmmakers' heads over the years. ... In spite of a profile that should place it alongside 'Megamind' and 'Despicable Me' and the long list of other overblown, have-fun-or-else cartoons, this rambling, anarchic tale is gratifyingly fresh and eccentric. Much of the time you don't quite know where it is going, which is high praise indeed given the slick predictability that governs most other entertainments of its kind." — A.O. Scott, The New York Times
Check out everything we've got on "Rango."
For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.com.