Movie Review: Rango [2011]

Rango [2011]

Rango [2011]
Director: Gore Verbinski
Genre: Animation/Adventure/Comedy
Language: English
Country: USA

When I first saw the trailer for Rango, I immediately thought it was going to be another run-of-the-mill animated movie for children. Slowly, details started to trickle out and I heard about references to Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas and the Dollars Trilogy, among others. My interest was piqued, and it turns out that my initial notion was dead wrong.

Rango is a smart movie, one that caters toward adults and film buffs. Sure, kids will love its stylish and unbelievably detailed visuals, as well as Johnny Depp’s charming rendition of the title character, but many of the film references and “adult” level jokes will go over their poor little heads. I think that’s what made Rango so appealing for me — it isn’t “dumbed down” at all.

Rango [2011]

So yeah, Johnny Depp is the voice of Rango, a pet chameleon who accidentally becomes stranded in the Mojave Desert. Scared shitless by being alone amongst red-tailed hawks and other predators, Rango wanders aimlessly and eventually meets a desert iguana named Beans, who takes him into an Old West town called Dirt. It is here where the ever-imaginative chameleon develops his persona of Rango, posing as a tough outlaw who once killed all seven Jenkins brothers with one bullet. One bullet! The townsfolk eat this up, and after Rango accidentally kills a terrorizing red-tailed hawk, he is appointed as the town’s sheriff.

What ultimately unveils itself is a clever homage to the classic Chinatown, with the town trying to figure out what the hell happened to their disappearing water supply. Nods to old Westerns are also frequent, and the movie itself is nothing more than an animated spoof/tribute to the genre.

Not enough can be said of the movie’s visuals. This is one of the best-looking animated features I have ever seen, and it is clear that Pixar now has some competition in the form of Industrial Light & Magic. Do yourself a favor and see this on Blu-ray. It is mind-bogglingly sharp.

Rango [2011]

The voice acting is also quite impressive with Johnny Depp leading the way. Whereas other big name actors have been known to phone in their performances, Depp is on top of the game here and is clearly having a great time. Ned Beatty, Bill Nighy, Abigail Breslin, Stephen Root and Harry Dean Stanton also lend their talent, to name a few, and the casting overall is quite flawless.

I liked Rango and its eccentricities quite a bit, particularly the beginning and end sequences. The middle portion, while entertaining, dragged on a bit too long, and the overall feature suffers a little as a result. Still, there is a lot to like here. Kids will be pleased with the characters and the stunning visuals, and adults will love all of the references and gags related to other films. A spicier middle segment would have made this one of the top films this year, but it’s still a fun way to spend two hours.

7.5/10

Movie Review: Everything Must Go [2010]

Everything Must Go [2010]

Everything Must Go [2010]
Director: Dan Rush
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Language: English
Country: USA

Will Ferrell is back in a much-welcomed dramatic role.

Everything Must Go, based on Raymond Carver’s (very) short story “Why Don’t You Dance?“, is a moving character study that gives Ferrell a chance to show off his improved dramatic chops. Ferrell plays the character of Nick Halsey, an alcoholic whose world has just crumbled all around him. After getting fired from his job for a drinking-related incident, Nick comes home to find all of his belongings scattered across the front lawn. His wife, who is nowhere to be found, has kicked him out of the house and even changed the locks on him. With nowhere else to go and nothing to do, Halsey takes up residence on his lawn.

Although he seems perfectly content to spend the foreseeable future on his front lawn while drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon, Nick’s neighbors don’t have the same idea. The police visit his house to warn him that he is breaking the law, but a friend of Nick’s on the force (and also his AA sponsor, played by Michael Pena) grants him a temporary reprieve if he agrees to have a yard sale. Facing the prospect of jail time if he doesn’t, Halsey is forced to agree.

Everything Must Go [2010]

In the midst of his life being in total disarray, Nick forges two unlikely relationships. One is with Kenny, a pudgy teenager (Christopher Jordan Wallace, aka Biggie’s son) who he teaches about sales and baseball in exchange for helping him with his yard sale. The other is with Samantha (Rebecca Hall), a lonely pregnant neighbor across the street who feels sympathy for Nick and is one of few who shows common decency toward him. In a time of need, these are the only people who are even giving him the time of day, as unlikely of “friends” as they might be.

On paper this sounds pretty depressing. And, in some instances, it is. Those expecting a typical Will Ferrell effort will be disappointed, but I believe this is his finest role yet. It is absolutely refreshing to see Ferrell play a different type of drunk — one who is subdued and functional rather than over-the-top and obnoxious. His character is a seemingly good man who has a serious addiction, and Ferrell’s performance really drives this home.

Everything Must Go [2010]

Everything Must Go focuses on the dramatic side of things, although there are hints of sly humor from time to time. The film has a bit of a slow pace that might turn off some, but I found it to be engaging throughout. This is definitely a one-man show complemented by some admirable performances from the supporting cast (including some nice bit roles from Laura Dern and Stephen Root). Hopefully this is the beginning of more similar roles from Will Ferrell; in Everything Must Go, he shows he is certainly up to the task of carrying this type of film.

7.5/10