Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011


A CGI Western with a passel of moviewise fun and a knockout animation style, Rango ransacks, then smartly twists, elements from dozens of classic pictures, from Chinatown to Clint Eastwood's No-Name Westerns. The clever script by John Logan (The Aviator, Hugo, Coriolanus) spins the familiar tale of a tenderfoot who's mistaken for a savior sheriff by rude hombres and the lone pretty girl. Except that the dude known as Rango (voiced by Johnny Depp) and the girl, Beans (Isla Fisher), are lizards; the Mayor (Ned Beatty) is a turtle; and the chief gunslinger (Bill Nighy) is a rattlesnake mean enough to scare Samuel L. Jackson. For his first animated feature, Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski filmed the actors in motion-capture and called on the ILM team to surround them with natural Western landscapes; this looks like the most gorgeous live-action movie. The scaly skin on its reptiles has a realism that's tactile, even if you wouldn't want to touch it. In a strong year for animation — Rio, Happy Feet Two and The Adventures of Tintin would all be worthy 10-Best finalists — Rango was the coolest, funniest and dagnab-orneriest of the bunch.