RANGO isn’t just a chameleon struggling with his identity; it’s also a movie that struggles to find its true identity. One thing the film does not struggle with is amazing animation full of lavishly detailed sets and characters. I wanted to love the film which sold me on the basic level of an animal known for its ability to change color also being able to change his personality on a whim. Sadly, in the end RANGO just felt a little too disjointed for me to be able to sink my teeth in to.
The film begins as the nameless chameleon (Johnny Depp) is acting out scenes in a fish tank on the back of a car before a near accident sends his tank flying on to the cement, leaving the animal to fend for himself in the desert. Once he stumbles upon a town suffering from a severe shortage of water he find a name for himself and lies his way into becoming the towns sheriff. As the unlikely law of the town Rango somehow sniffs out something fishy about the sudden disappearance of all the water in town and seeks to do something about it.
It’s actually quite tough to ever have to admit not loving every aspect of a computer animated movie. It’s even tougher to admit when a movie is as visually stunning as RANGO is. The animation in RANGO is absolutely mesmerizing. The color palette is brilliant; the scene details are astounding as are the character models. Not a single character or set piece in this movie is lackluster or simple. The amount of detail is Pixar level or perhaps even better and the movements of the character bring them to life in such a way that at times look damn near lifelike. It’s such a shame to me that everything else just did not click with me.
I’m extremely conflicted about my feelings here because the animation had me in awe, the voice acting is top notch even if I’m not the world’s biggest Johnny Depp advocate, and even the sound design was very impressive. When it comes down to it though, nothing jumped out at me and made me care about the story or the characters themselves outside of the animation. I loved the way everything looked and moved, but I could just as easily watch the film on mute and get the same enjoyment out of it (aside from missing the sound design). It wasn’t until Rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy) came into the picture that I was really getting into it and even that is a very small portion of the film.
Looking back I don’t hate the story by any means, I just didn’t find that the writers and director presented in such a way that I could really immerse myself in it. I was too distracted and in love with the visuals to care much about anything else that anytime anything cool animation wise happened that my mind focused on those aspects far more. I also feel like the film jumped around in tone quite a bit which since I was so transfixed on the visuals that jumping from place to place so quickly had me feeling like I was suffering from ADHD.
A fantastic cast was assembled to bring these characters alive and each to a great job I just feel like they all live in the shadow of animation that outshines the script by a long shot. I did laugh here and there at some of the quirky sensibilities, but I never found RANGO to be inherently funny, exciting or even dramatic on any serious level.
As much as it pains me to give an animated movie my less than favorable opinion I just couldn’t bring myself to say I liked RANGO. I don’t hate it, because I loved it in regards to the look everything else just made me shrug my shoulders. I feel parts of it are a little too mean spirited and dark for children, but a little too quirky and simple for lots of adults. I don’t begrudge the opinions of anyone who will and have loved it because I can fully understand how someone could. For me though, RANGO despite the spectacular animation struggled at finding any kind of identity.