A delightful (and delightfully bizarre) animated tale, "Rango" is the latest from director Gore Verbinski ("Pirates of the Caribbean") focuses on Rango (Johnny Depp, sort of channeling his "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" character Raoul Duke, or at least a family-friendly version), a little chameleon who finds himself lost in the desert after an accident.
Steered by a series of locals, Rango finds himself in the town of Dirt, a lawless outpost where life is difficult. Stumbling through a series of tall tales, Rango is given the task of sheriff after he manages to accidentally take care of the bird that has been using the town as a buffet.
However, Rango soon learns that the gig isn't an easy job - Rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy) and his gang have had their grip on the town for some time, and a problem with the water supply (or lack thereof) suddenly gets (much) worse.
The picture's story isn't entirely out of the ordinary, but the film's love of the genre makes for moments that are both warm and fun, such as the traditional "Let's ride!" speech in one scene followed by confusion as to just where the horses are supposed to be headed to. The hint of a love story between Rango and fellow lizard Beans (Isla Fisher) is near pointless, but not much of a factor or distraction.
The film's lively, funny take on the Western genre is terrific, but the film's other major positive is Depp, who creates a larger-than-life personality in Rango - his delivery is spot-on and some of the lines are truly inspired (and feel like they came out of improv.) Finally, the film's visuals are a delight - animation quality is impressive and the film's visual style (ace cinematographer Roger Deakins acted as a visual consultant) is particularly memorable.
"Rango" is a rare (outside of Pixar) animated flick that manages to offer clever laughs and action for adults and should entertain children, as well. It's a great, fun film and certainly quite a bit more entertaining than this Summer's "Cowboys and Aliens" - rather than heading to the theater for that film, stay home with this one.
A slightly extended version is also included.
VIDEO: "Rango" is presented by Dreamworks in 2.35:1 (1080p/AVC). The transfer is reference quality, with sharpness and detail that are crystal clear throughout. Aside from a touch of edge enhancement, the picture appeared pristine. Colors looked spot-on, with rich hues and no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The film's DTS-HD 5.1 presentation is a delight, with aggressive use of the surrounds for various discrete sound effects and ambience. Sound effects sounded punchy and well-recorded, while dialogue seemed clean and clear.
EXTRAS: Director Gore Verbinski is joined by members of the crew for a discussion on the Blu-Ray edition. The commentary is a terrific listen, with the group chatting about the style of the film, script/characters, working with the actors and a number of other challenges during the production. Fast, informative, occasionally funny and with a minimum of silence.
We also get a nearly 50-minute "making of documentary" ("Breaking the Rules"), a storyboard-to-film comparison, deleted scenes, an educational feature on the real-life creatures seen in the film, the trailer and an interactive look at the setting of the film.
Final Thoughts: "Rango" is a great, fun film and certainly quite a bit more entertaining than this Summer's "Cowboys and Aliens" - rather than heading to the theater for that film, stay home with this one. The Blu-Ray offers excellent audio/video quality, as well as a few mild extras. Recommended.
The Film A