I finally worked up the nerve to sit down and watch my way through Rango on Netflicks the other day, which is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while but had been dreading for quite some time. I knew nothing about this film, basically. Just that it featured a weird, possibly brain dead lizard guy clutching an adorable orange fish to his chest on the movie poster, and also that Johnny Depp is involved, I guess? I’m pretty bad with movie actors, but Johnny Depp is the one who was a hilarious pirate and also was a guy who was physically incapable of running without scissors, right? He was also Michael Jackson I mean Willie Wonka in that one film about murdering children with a chocolate factory.
All I really knew about Rango came from what other people told me. Which was: It got bad reviews, don’t waste your money. But I’m a poor blogger with aspirations of being a writer! It’s basically impossible for me to do anything without wasting money! So, here’s the deal about Rango, since no one else seems to eager to talk about it.
Rango is a western story, narrated to us by four adorable mariachi owls, who tag around our protagonist for the entire film with the sole purpose of dispensing exposition and/or mariachi music detailing Rango’s quest. Rango, for reference, is no one.
The movie begins with the story of a lizard. One of those ones that families keep in aquariums, what so they can keep them warm and presumably alive, as lizards aren’t known for dealing well with the cold. Our protagonist is the sole occupant of this glass prison, and he lives out his days enacting elaborate scenes from Shakespeare with his friends: a plastic tree, an orange toy windup fish, and the torso of a Barbie doll who is ALWAYS up for a little romance (which would be a little less unsettling if she had a head).
The lizard suddenly comes to the realization that his acting is wooden, as he has never had conflict in his life, ever. But then, PLOT happens, and his entire aquarium is thrown from the back of a moving vehicle in an accident, and the thespian lizard must now survive in the harsh desert.
Then come, you know, western stuff. He quickly befriends a lizard gal named Beans (don’t ask) and finds his way into the town of Dirt, which is suffering from a major drought problem. Seeing himself in the old West, the lizard puts his acting skills to good use to fit in, naming himself Rango and spinning an epic tale of murder and carnage that, he tells everyone, brought him to town.
You can see where this is going, right? Rango essentially screws himself over with the medium of LIES and DECEIT, and then gets into trouble. It’s standard kids movie/comedy movie misunderstanding, except in this case, all the characters are like desert critters for some reason.
It kind of reminded me of those old Redwall novels I read as a kid. Anyone else read those? They were written by a guy named Brian Jacques (isn’t Brian a wonderful name? Needs more Ys in it, though) and were filled with stories of mouse and shrew warriors, murdering a path of awesome across fields of bad guys and solving mysterious puzzles of mystery. Rango is kind of what the Redwall novels would have been, if instead of fantasy novels Jacques was actually writing the script to Deliverance.
Things to know about Rango: It’s a western, it’s weird, and it’s not quite sure who its target audience is or how to reach them. At once point, the movie makes an elaborate joke about prostates and rectal examinations that I’m 90 percent sure anyone under the age of 13 will be completely lost on (there’s a fun question: when did YOU learn about prostates? I feel like this needs to be a poster in every doctor’s office), and there are signs of chewing tobacco, alcohol consumption, and creepy ass cacti. It is a VERY bizarre movie. Very much so.
That being said, it’s actually a pretty good Western movie to catch, with a considerable mystery wrapped in there too, following Rango’s evolution from a pansy liar into a force to be reckoned with in the old West. There’s also a ghost in a golf cart with a… metal detector… actually now that I think about it I have no idea what was up with the golf cart and metal detector. What the eff?
Not that the movie wraps up adequately. Or makes tons of sense. Or even has memorable characters. But in the old west, you don’t need any of that junk. All you need is your trusty six shooter and wind up fish, and you’ll do just fine.