Director: Gore Verbinski

Cast: Voiced by Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abiggail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Ned Beatty Bill Nighy

Rating: ****

Can a lizard, a creature that inspires such a limited range of feelings as wrinkled-in-disgust-noses to active loathing, be a hero? 'Rango' is a superbly-written, masterfully-shot feat of making us believe that yes, ugly critters can also possess the kind of heroic qualities that this world needs more of.

'Rango' is an animation film, sure, but it is not for little kids. That frees up director Gore Verbinski from the tyranny of keeping everything kid-friendly. The opening sequence, in which Rango is converted from being a pet chameleon in a glass cage to a questing hero, sets the tone of the film. 'I've had an epiphany', says Rango 'I must get to the other side'. No, this is not your average cartoon flick featuring cutesy toy animals. This is a wildly inventive ride, paying exuberant homage to a whole bunch of western-thriller-mystery classics (catch the Sergio Leone nods, the Clint Eastwood influences, the `Chinatown references), expecting you to catch the drift, and canter right along.

Rango, voiced by Depp giving it his all, arrives in the parched town of Dirt, whose residents are slowly but surely being squeezed out by its greedy mayor (Beatty) who knows that `whoever controls the water, controls the future'. Beans (Fisher) a desert iguana with a soft spot for the stranger, is the only one holding out : the mayor wants her ranch and means to have it. The only one standing in between the dastardly mayor and the petrified townsfolk is Rango, who rumbles the evil plan, and foils all attempts at chasing him away, even when the scariest villain that ever crawled into a frontier town Rattlesnake Jake (Nighy) shows up. Rango stands up and fights, because he has come to know, finally, that 'no man can walk out of his own story'

There are a few parts of the film which feel stretched, but you don't really mind because you get the time to gaze at the scenery, which never overwhelms the story, but is completely right for a film which uses an unlikely, reluctant hero to spell out essential home truths : that it is all right to doubt, and fear, because that is the only way to salvation. To know who you really are.


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