The previews for Rango, which have been well circulated by now, make the movie appear to be another kid-centric affair with zany characters and brightly colored animation. Let me tell you that’s not the case. Rango is dark for a children’s tale, and much more adult oriented than the previews let on.
Rango is a chameleon with aspirations of being an actor. The movie opens on him opining with random inanimate objects like the naked torso of a Barbie, “Are those real?” he quips. He hones his acting craft, but none of the other objects seem to be that interested in what he’s doing. Still Rango, voiced by Johnny Depp, is oddly charismatic from his slightly cricked neck to his subtle Western accent.
Without any backstory given about Rango, we’re immediately thrust into his life. Many kids may be lost during this beginning. There’s no story to set up or character to develop. Here’s Rango. He’s crazy. And that’s about all the information we’re given.
After an accident in the car he’s driving in, Rango’s aquarium is thrown from the vehicle and lands shattered in the middle of the desert. We’ve now been set up for the atypical Western story. A man with no name, and no origin wanders into a dusty town winding up smack dab in the townspeople’s lives.
That’s exactly what happens to Rango. He wanders through the desert until he finds an old settlement filled with insanely animated characters. From a gull with an arrow sticking through his eye to a cat that’s clearly missing and ear, this animation is decidedly not the norm. That’s part of the charm of Rango. Its animation is simply stunning to watch in action. You haven’t seen a movie animated in quite this way. The character designs are quirky without going overboard. Everything about this movie’s design sucks you into this world perfectly and completely. It’s tough to take your eyes off the screen because everything is so detailed and thought out that you may miss some subtle look or reference if you’re not watching closely enough.
The writing certainly isn’t geared toward children either. Many of the jokes and one-liners will fly right over their heads while landing squarely on their parents. May I suggest that Rango is more of an animated cartoon for adults than it is for kids? It’s a lot darker than many animated films, for example characters do die. It’s much smarter than the average CG animated kid movie especially during Rango’s numerous speeches which are both funny and witty, but are delivered with such pin-perfect voracity that much of what is said will be almost entirely missed by the younger folks in the audience.
It’s about time that someone else other than Pixar decided to put out an intelligent, smartly written animated feature film that was geared more toward adults than it was towards their kids.