Rango (Paramount Pictures, PG)

Here, Depp’s voice is the only tool he can use in his performance. Without fail, he does so expertly and creates a character so vivid and lifelike that it’s easy to forget he isn’t real.

 

 

Proving once again that he can re-invent himself for any role, Johnny Depp stars in Rango, an animated film directed by Gore Verbinski (who has worked with Depp on the many Pirates of the Caribbean movies). Be warned, however: even though Rango is an animated feature and rated PG, its themes and messages will likely fly over the heads of most young children. The film is also not presented in 3D, which will further confuse kids who have become accustomed to seeing every animated movie with plastic glasses affixed to their faces.

The film is without argument The Johnny Depp Show because of the absolutely wonderful performance he gives. As an actor, Depp is known for transforming himself for each role by completely changing his physical appearance. Here, however, Depp’s voice is the only tool he can use in his performance. Without fail, he does so expertly and creates a character so vivid and lifelike that it’s easy to forget he isn’t real.

Depp’s character, Rango, is a very lonely, very imaginative chameleon who suddenly finds himself lost in the desert, totally defenseless from nature’s predators. When he stumbles onto the small town of Dirt, Rango realizes that since no one knows who he is he can be whomever he wants. The town is without a sheriff and with a serious drought problem looming, Rango decides to step into the role.

Rango immediately becomes intrigued by Beans (Isla Fisher) who is desperately trying to keep the town’s mayor (Ned Beatty) from taking her land. As the drought gets more and more bleak and the citizens of Dirt become frightened about the town’s dwindling water supply, Rango endeavors to discover why the water suddenly stopped flowing.
Screenwriter John Logan, who has penned films such as Gladiator and The Aviator, is one of the most consistently impressive writers working in Hollywood today. Though the basis of the story borrows (read: steals) heavily from Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, Logan has managed to tap into a fundamental challenge that each person faces in his or her life. Rango, at the start of the movie, has created his own little world in his terrarium but knows that something is seriously lacking, namely other people. He finds comfort and solace with the inhabitants of Dirt, things his plastic friends couldn’t provide.

Verbinski does a terrific job of keeping the action moving quickly while giving the important philosophical questions time to take hold. The true artists of the film, however, are just that: the artists. The team at Industrial Light & Magic have created a world so real that at times the audience can be distracted by how truly marvelous the animation is. Where the artists have surpassed anything Disney or Pixar has done is in the texture of the characters and setting. Every detail has been attended to, and every frame is deceptively lifelike. Though not really aimed at them, children will enjoy the movie’s animation, adventure and comedy. Adults, on the other hand, will take away much more from the movie, which is likely to both entertain and inspire. | Matthew F. Newlin

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