Rango is the very first animated film from the magicians at Industrial Light & Magic who’ve raised the technology bar in Hollywood so many times over the years that they’ve made it seem commonplace to do so.
This first effort has first effort written all over it.
The look is typical ILM. In other words it looks incredible. I’ve never seen another animated film that even remotely approaches it visually. Every detail is just a bit better than anything done before. What’s more noteworthy is that there’s no 3D version out there and it’s clear that one isn’t needed. It just wouldn’t add anything to the wow-factor.
Unfortunately that’s where the high bar ends and, sadly, in typical fashion for a studio known for it’s visual effects.
The story couldn’t possibly be more bland. It’s starts off decently but falls off very quickly. It also feels like someone took every western created, shook them up in a jar, and poured out every stereotype element to weave this tale. We know all the plot lines long before they resolve. There’s the misunderstood hero; voiced by Johnny Depp, the demure love interest, the bright but precocious child, the current bad element that is run off to make way for the really bad outlaw, the evil town politician and much more. The problem is that none of it feels well-connected here.
It’s a bit odd to say but the main characters also lack any chemistry what-so-ever. You never get a sense that they belong together and don’t really care if they ever do get on.
There’s also a musical quartet of owls that feel like they were created to borrow directly from Madagascar‘s excellent penguins. However, after their second appearance it’s all the same stale joke that wasn’t really all that funny to begin with.
Finally, a few key plot elements are a bit too confusing. You’re not quite sure what the evil politician is up to as his story resolves a bit too quickly and coldly.
In the end we’re left with a visually stunning film that provides virtually nothing else. It gives the impression of exactly what you’d expect from a first effort from a visual company—a wonderful bunch of eye-candy without any depth. I’ve read several great reviews suggesting it’s a very smart film that plays well to a more discerning audience. I guess I’m just stupid as its allure was completely lost on me and everyone else in the theater based on their reactions afterwards.