I went to see Rango this weekend. I really enjoyed the movie but as a “tia” of a seven soon to be eight year old and a just turned four year old, I can say with complete authority that this is not a movie for kids. Not because of the violence and innuendo and language (although there is some of each) but because this is not a movie made for kids. I can’t see kids sitting through it without squirming, potty breaks and lots of popcorn and candy. The images, themes and references are aimed at cinema-philes over the age of forty and the humor is a little more sophisticated than the usual flatulence, slime and booger-fests that you get in a lot of kids movies these days (believe me I’ve seen a lot of kids movies e.g. “G-Force” – blech).
Okay, so let’s get to specifics:
The animation is extremely well-done although a little too graphic in some regards for my tastes. I don’t really need to see all the broken capillaries and pimply bits on noses and other extremities. A little glossing over would have suited me just fine but that’s just me – I tend to be a bit sensitive.
The storyline was well constructed and drew upon more complex themes than the usual “be good and fly straight” themes of Disney and Pixar films. I’m not knocking Disney or Pixar, love the Mouse and Lasseter, but they can be a little moralistically heavy-handed, stereotypical and judgemental at times (but then so can I).
What I really truly loved about this film were the references – visual, musical, cinematic references! I’m a sucker for in-jokes and allusions and images that draw from other works. They become like a giant puzzle layered over the piece enriching its meaning. I think that’s what I loved about those old Dennis Miller rants — the references (that’s Dennis Miller before he got all paranoid and right-wing militant on us).
Now, I’m not a big Western movie fan but having grown up n the 60’s I’ve seen my share – from True Grit to Fistful of Dollars to The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and back again. I picked up on some of the references and homages that were layered into Rango, but not all – I missed all the Peckinpah references. Peckinpah was always a little too violent for me. Except for the two Julian Lennon videos that Peckinpah did shortly before his death, I’ve never seen a Peckinpah film in its entirety (not proud of it but its the truth). Sorry, I digress…. back to Rango …. Rango calling Priscilla “little sister” a la Rooster Cogburn (True Grit), the spiral of Rango’s tail that just screamed Tim Burton to me (but that could be just my Tim Burton fixation), the very beginning of the film when Depp is staging performances for himself and he’s playing “the world’s greatest lover” (a la his own Don Juan character), the Carlos Castaneda-like armadillo, Roadkill (that’s more of literary reference I guess), the Apocalypse Now sequence with the bats battling overhead while we hear Wagner on the soundtrack – these all added to my enjoyment of the film. I completely missed the Fear & Loathing reference until my friend R. pointed it out to me. Oh and not to forget Chinatown and Star Wars and Don Knotts and well, here take a look at this article for the information straight from the lizard’s mouth so to speak.
I also must mention the music in this film – Dick Dale-esque guitars and music that pays homage to the western themes of years gone by (Django by Bacalov, Ringo by Lorne Greene, Ghostriders in the Sky, Ramrods version) and I’m sure many, many more that escape me right now … oh The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance too. And one more shout out to the ending title sequence – excellent, straight out of the late sixties – the cut out block-printing animation was a parting treat as was Los Lobos rendition of the Rango theme song. It has brought back to mind all these old songs that I’ve been singing to myself as I work (fortunately I work alone) – nothing better that walking down an empty office hallway, squinting and doing the theme song from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (oooeeeooo eee oooooo bwah bwah bwah). This morning I rustled the kids ready for school with the theme to Bonanza – they didn’t have a clue what I was doing but I enjoyed riding up Hoss-style on my invisible horse … I guess I really do like Westerns more than I thought ….
I’m hesitantly including this video – I’m not sure quite how it was acquired ….