"The Spirit of the West"
RANGO is a delightfully kooky, thoroughly entertaining animated movie. There is brief foul language and lots of action violence, including a scary snake character, so caution is advised for younger children and some pre-adolescents.
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.
(CC, BBB, L, VV, A, D, M) Strong Christian worldview with very strong moral elements featuring Christian, redemptive references and content, including references to prayer and to God that include references to “the Spirit of the West,” which are a little bit ambiguous but done in an entertaining redemptive way that’s endearing; about five or six “h” words and one “d” word, plus a couple references to the place called Hell and, in a homage to THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, the SO of SOB is said but the obscenity is not completed; strong action and comic violence includes hawks chase lizards and animals, gunfights, tower kills hawk, big chase scene with moles flying on bats and explosions, bats carrying moles catch on fire, animals hang onto wagon for dear life, scary rattlesnake threatens innocent lizards and animals, characters almost drown, guns pointed, villain dragged away to his apparent doom, aquarium carrying pet lizard flies out of car and smashes onto road, water fountains gush and carry characters, and lead singer of owl mariachi band keeps saying that the hero will die soon; no sex scenes; no nudity; cactus juice provides a stand-in for alcohol but no drunkenness; some cigar smoking; and, protagonist lies to survive and gain respect but the truth eventually comes out and he must decide what his real purpose should be.
RANGO is a unique animated movie that’s part western and part comedy. In the story, a lonely pet chameleon, who fancies himself a great actor, gets separated from his aquarium and wanders into an isolated desert town called Dirt. In the local saloon, he introduces himself to the other animals and creatures as Rango, inventing an elaborate lie about how tough he is. A series of accidents convinces the townspeople he really is tough, and they make him sheriff. Someone, however, is stealing the town’s water. So, it’s up to Rango to expose the varmint and save the town.
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.