Film: 'Rango'; Director: Gore Verbinski; Voiceovers: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Timothy Olyphant, Ned Beatty; Rating: ****
In 1995, William Blake, an Easterner, went looking for a job in the Wild Wild West only for him to become the hunted. Blessed with a strange, surreal luck, he survived one misfortune after another.
Circa 2011, and William Blake from 'Dead Man' is back as a street smart chameleon Rango in an equally smart animation film. And this time Johnny Depp aka William Blake aka Rango, does not have to die.
Rango (Johnny Depp) is an extraordinary chameleon. Unlike others from his species, he has become so domesticated that he cannot blend in. However, his acting skills and luck help him befriend the townsfolk of Dirt, who believe his stories.
Yet, in trying to solve the problem of their dwindling water supply, not only will Rango be exposed, but also he will be forced to discover who he really is.
'Rango' is a film that will leave lovers of many cinematic genres on a high. It successfully blends breathtaking animation with spaghetti Westerns.
Yet, unlike many other films, it is not the animation that drives the story, but the quirky story that becomes the reason for every action in the film.
With a la Clint Eastwood from his westerns making a cameo as the spirit of the wild west, the film will endear to every lover of the Western genre.
However, despite a good dose of wit and humour, the film may not necessarily be suitable for children. And that is actually a good thing than bad.
It's a wrong notion that animation is just for kids. The creative potential of animation to suit adult needs has rarely been attempted. Though the makers of this film are perhaps not deliberating attempting it, 'Rango' is indeed a step in that direction.
The film not only spoofs known cliches of spaghetti Westerns, but also uses the best of its elements to good effect and to create a different mood. It does the same with cliches from popular films like 'Star Wars' and 'Chinatown'.
The metaphor of the film is against the modern notion of development. In the quest to control, human beings forget that there are other things that are dependent on that which we control.
Thus, while humans have built an oasis in the desert in the form of a city, all the characters in it, except a cameo, are small desert creatures, those that need and are thus bound by the bond of water that is perennially in a shortfall in the desert.
Johnny Depp is an actor who seems unable to make mistakes. Even when it is lending sound to a character, heavily inspired from one of his earlier films, he excels.
Combine that with imagination and creativity running amuck, a soundtrack that both spoofs and aptly uses cliche and some very creative conceptualisation, and you have in your hands an excellent, though quirky and different companion to both Dead Man and Chinatown.
Masters of the Western genres like Sergio Leone and John Ford would surely be grateful for this one for even they would be hard pressed to find a vision as original as this, either in their favourite 'Western' genre, or even in animation.
And thankfully, besides excellence in animation, in terms of the story and its message, 'Rango' refuses to tow the Pixar line. And that individuality in itself makes it a welcome change for many now bored with the creative predictability of Steve Jobs studio.