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Rango: A Redneck Redwall story

This movie poster is kind of misleading. That fish is actually a very minor character, even if it is a legendary actor.

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).

HOOT HOOT HOLA AMIGO

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.

What is even going on here, I don't even know

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.

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4 Responses

  1. I haven’t watched this, even though it has Johnny Depp’s voice, for the sole reason that I thought it would be too weird. It appears I was correct. Oh, and I tried reading a Redwall book once, but I didn’t like it at all.

    • When I was a kid I read one Redwall novel, which was actually pretty cool. So, I figured I’d try a few more and then discovered that all the Redwall novels are essentially identical, plot, character and villain wise, so I dropped the whole thing. And Rango is pretty weird, but in a very different way than you’d think from the movie poster. It’s like you’ll go into the movie thinking it’s going to be a certain type of weird, but then blind sides you with a completely unexpected OTHER type of weird.

      • But the question is, would I enjoy *either* of the types of weird? And the answer is, probably not.

  2. Who would have believed that Gore Verbinski had this in him? Shades of Caruso is proud to call itself a pro-Gore blog, having been one of the five audience members to have enjoyed the determinedly peculiar Mousehunt on release. Even taking that early oddity into account, Rango is a startling leap into the weird for Verbinski. A Chinatown homage that mangles the Western genre and goes out of its way to alienate the audience it needs to be a success? Just for taking that risk it deserves to be praised, but tokenism like that isn’t necessary when the end product is this much fun. As SoC tweeted at the time — in a state of some shock and joy — it’s like a Grant Morrison Animal Man comic directed by Sergio Leone, breaking the fourth wall and probably even a hypothetical fifth wall as Rango seeks to define his personality by pulling our new modern cinematic mythology into his world to form a path of self-discovery. Much of the rambling discourse on how we define ourselves makes it seem like the recording of the dialogue – done by Verbinski with all the cast present, acting out their parts on a soundstage – was actually an informal group therapy session. There’s structure within this berserk adventure, and Verbinski stages a couple of delirious action sequences too, but it’s the doodling in the margins, the asides and self-inspection of Rango himself that make this one of the most exciting and lovably deranged movies of the new century. It’s also a vision of beauty; thanks to the stellar production design of Mark “Crash” McCreery and the lighting design of consultant Roger “King” Deakins it’s almost too much to take in on first viewing.

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