Blu-Ray Review: Johnny Depp Gets Animated in Confident ‘Rango’

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CHICAGO – There’s a rare level of artistic confidence in “Rango” that we usually don’t see outside of Pixar. What I mean by that is that SO many animated flicks that I have to suffer through in a calendar year are trying to appease a marketing plan, a producer, a focus group, etc. “Rango,” while being a bit overrated by some, is undeniably unique in its vision and trying only to appease that creativity. It’s an occasionally inspired film that looks stunning in HD and is accompanied by some stellar special features. Blu-Ray Rating: 3.5/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 3.5/5.0

Rango (Johnny Depp) is an imaginative pet chameleon who finds himself stuck in the middle of the Nevada desert after his habitat crashes through the back of his owner’s car. Adventurous, daring, and without much choice in the matter, our hero wanders into the hazy horizon and stumbles about a town in crisis. As the drought gets worse and water becomes an increasingly-important commodity both for survival and power, the town is in desperate need of a hero. Could that hero be Rango?

Rango was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on July 15th, 2011
Rango was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on July 15th, 2011
Photo credit: Paramount Home Video

The pitch for Gore Verbinski’s film is incredibly simple if you really break it down — an animated Western with desert creatures. “Rango” follows a very traditional structure with a newcomer in town being set-up for a major fall and then his inevitable redemption. On top of that structure, writer John Logan (“The Aviator,” “Sweeney Todd”) builds a mountain of in-film references to everything from “Chinatown” to Hunter S. Thompson to Clint Eastwood and much, much more. In fact, “Rango” gets a bit weighed down by its own inspirations, sometimes feeling a bit hollow and soulless because of them. It sometimes feels like a movie made for critics or movie nuts more than families.

Rango was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on July 15th, 2011
Rango was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on July 15th, 2011
Photo credit: Paramount Home Video

And, while we’re on that subject, this may be the most violent animated PG movies of the year. It arguably should have been PG-13 to make clear to families that it is NOT for the little ones. Not only is a the major villain of the piece a giant, terrifying, gun-slinging rattlesnake, but the entire piece is incredibly dark and remarkably violent. Just a warning.

Once you’re old enough to see “Rango,” it’s definitely a clever, unique piece of work. Having said that, it’s also kind of abrasive and thinks it’s the smartest kid on the block. There’s a genuine quality missing from the film that made it so I admired it but can’t say that I loved it. It doesn’t draw you in like the best animation because it’s SO self-aware. Logan and Verbinski have made a movie so referential and clever that it lost a bit of the heart needed to truly succeed in this genre.

Having said that, it looks AMAZING, especially in HD. Perhaps the smartest thing that Verbinski and his team did was to hire the great cinematographer Roger Deakins (“True West,” “No Country For Old Men,” “The Shawshank Redemption”) as a visual consultant. “Rango” looks absolutely incredible and it’s worth seeing for its visual compositions alone. I just wish there was more beneath the surface.

As for the Blu-ray release, it’s a solid one with a commentary track on an extended edition of the film along with deleted scenes (including a funny never-before-seen ending) and entertaining featurettes. Fans of “Rango” won’t be disappointed.

“Get ready to tango with Rango, a winner with critics and audiences that’s “like nothing you’ve ever seen before” (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone). Johnny Depp is spectacular as Rango, a kooky pet chameleon who gets tossed into a wild and raucous town in desperate need of a hero. Refreshingly original with eye-popping animation, Rango is “loads of fun and genuinely funny” (Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times).”

Special Features:
o Never-Before-Seen Ending
o Uncover 10 Deleted Scenes
o Watch with Storyboard Reel Picture-in-Picture
o Go Behind the Scenes with Cast and Crew
o Meet the Real Creatures of Dirt
o Take an Interactive Trip to Dirt
o Digital Copy Of Feature Film

“Rango” stars Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone, and Timothy Olyphant. It was written by John Logan and directed by Gore Verbinski. It is rated PG and was released on Blu-ray and DVD on July 15th, 2011. content director Brian Tallerico

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