Rango 2011 ★★★½

Rango is fun, very quirky, and imaginative, although after a while it starts to feel like every one of its 107 minutes. But I can never speak too poorly of an animated movie about lizards that finds room for cameos from Hunter S. Thompson and Clint Eastwood.

It’s a bizarre mélange of blatant influences and homages, from A Fistful Of Dollars to Shane to The Magnificent Seven to Chinatown to Raising Arizona (which my three-year-old niece picked up on – “This is like that movie with the babies!” – coolest kid in America, bar none.) Basically it’s Blazing Saddles played out with animated animals (right down to the farts), as Johnny Depp’s insulated chameleon character gets lost in the desert, comes across a town starved for water, and somehow ends up with a job as their sheriff.

Obviously for a huge movie nerd like me, with an impressionable young niece in danger of becoming a huge movie nerd, this is a treasure trove. The character designs are particularly distinct and creative, even by the high standards of modern animated movies, and the whole project is produced at the highest standards, notably the smart, reference-heavy score by Hans Zimmer, and the hazy desert look of the “photography”, which was done in consultation with the great cinematographer Roger Deakins. I also really appreciated the simple fact that Rango didn’t force us to slap on those 3D glasses. It’s 2-Dimensional and proudly so. We’re not fans of that 3D malarkey around here, so it was good for us.

What I didn’t like was having to explain away all the deaths and innuendo and references to things like balls and prostate cancer. Seriously. This movie isn’t exactly for kids. At least it has the sense to speed up during those parts, so that none of the truly adult moments last too long.

As always, however, I have random questions. First and foremost:

Why does Johnny Depp do such a good American accent in movies while having such a weird accent in real life?

Also: I definitely had some issues while watching the lady lizard character, voiced by Isla Fisher in a frequently pitch-perfect Holly Hunter imitation. For one thing, it looks like an artist’s rendering of what would happen if Tyra Banks mated with Jar-Jar Binks. (Somewhere, some nerd is already working on that little fan-fiction.) But really, it comes down to one thing:



Why does the cartoon lizard lady need to have A-cups, please?