The Spirit of the West
Release Date: March 04, 2011
Starring: The Voices of Johnny Depp,
Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin,
Ned Beatty, Bill Nighy, Alfred
Molina, Ray Winstone, Harry
Dean Stanton, Timothy Olyphant
Audience: Older pre-teenagers to adults
Runtime: 107 minutes
Director: Gore Verbinski
Executive Producer: Tim Headington
Producer: Fore Verbinski, Graham King,
John B. Carls
Writer: John Logan
Address Comments To:Sumner Redstone, Chairman/CEO, Viacom
Brad Grey, Chairman/CEO
John Lesher, President, Paramount Film Group
5555 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038-3197
Phone: (323) 956-5000
Filmed like a live-action homage to comic westerns, RANGO begins on a modern desert highway. A bored, lonely pet chameleon in an aquarium imagines he’s a great actor. He passes the time by staging elaborate fantasy scenarios with the inanimate objects in his tank, including the torso of a Barbie doll, a plastic fish and a plastic palm tree.
A near accident sends the aquarium flying onto the road and smashing into pieces, with the unfortunate lizard uncontrollably riding one of the pieces of glass down the road. After getting his bearings under the blazing, relentless desert sun, the lizard runs into an armadillo, who points him to the nearest town, a town called Dirt. The armadillo tells him briefly about “the Spirit of the West” who rides in a white chariot. I’ll see you again on “the other side” – of the road, the armadillo adds, though the meaning is intentionally ambiguous.
Somewhere outside the town, the lizard runs into a large drainpipe that seems to have been recently wet. There is no water to drink, however, so he continues walking.
The lizard finally arrives in Dirt, which looks like a decrepit version of a western town from an old movie. He tries to get some water at the local saloon, but the only thing available is cactus juice; and, a very bad cactus juice at that.
Using his innate acting abilities, the lizard introduces himself as Rango and concocts an elaborate lie about how tough he is. He claims to have killed the notorious Jenkins Brothers with just one shot. After telling the story, he stands up to the town bully, Bad Bill. A gunfight begins, but a hawk interrupts, and Rango finally manages to fire a shot that knocks down a large tower, killing the hawk.
The excited townsfolk take Rango to the town mayor, a loquacious turtle confined to a wheelchair. The mayor offers Rango the job of sheriff, and Rango accepts.
One night, while patrolling the town, Rango unwittingly directs three moles to the town bank, where the people keep what little water they have left. The next morning, with the bank’s water tank gone, Rango deflects the people’s attention away from his unwitting part in the heist and forms a posse to go after the moles.
After a huge chase and fight sequence, Rango and the posse discover that the bank’s water tank was already empty when the moles stole it. Rango suspects that the empty water tank, the mysterious drainpipe and the disappearing water are all connected. What he finds out will test his own courage and integrity. After getting advice from “the Spirit of the West,” Rango determines to set things right.
RANGO is a comedy, and it’s a western. As such, it’s full of many a homage to spaghetti westerns like FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and comic westerns like CAT BALLOU, with some references to CHINATOWN thrown into the mix. The end result is hilarious, fun, exciting, witty, clever, delightfully quirky, wonderfully winsome, and thoroughly engaging.
The animation itself is a giant leap forward in the art. It’s done like a live-action movie with vivid characterizations and colorful, asymmetrical drawings that make each character a unique creation. Everything, however, serves the story and the characters, which is how it should be.
RANGO ultimately has a strong Christian, redemptive worldview with a very strong moral sensibility. There are even some overt and indirect references to God, including the Christian worldview that permeated the Old West in the United States. Although Rango is a teller of very tall tales, his lies are eventually exposed. Along the way, he learns his real divine purpose in life – a life of helping others, specifically the people of Dirt. Thus, the lizard introduced in the beginning of the movie does indeed become Rango, a real hero. In fact, it is the “Spirit of the West” that informs Rango of his true purpose, in a rather clever way that’s both religious and non-religious.
There is a lot of western violence in RANGO, including a scary snake villain who’s the henchman of the lead villain. There are also some obscenities, including a few “h” words and one “d” word that the snake uses with Rango’s love interest. Consequently, MOVIEGUIDE® advises caution for some older pre-adolescents. RANGO is not a movie for all ages, but it is a very entertaining, good-natured, albeit at times absurdly droll, movie for older children and up, including western fans.
All sorts of funny movie references are thrown into this delightful mix of western adventure, comedy, wit, and general kookiness. Although Rango is a teller of very tall tales, his lies are eventually exposed. Along the way, he learns his real purpose in life – to courageously help others. The animation in RANGO is cutting edge. There is, however, some brief foul language and lots of western action violence, including a scary snake villain. RANGO is not a movie for all ages, but it’s a good movie for older children and up.