Friday, December 30, 2011


Sometimes its hard to get people to shake the "animation equals kids movie" notion; but seriously, have these people never watched South Park? or Fox on Sunday night in the last 20 years? or heard of Adult Swim
Similar complaints sprang up about Fantastic Mr Fox a couple years ago, which was also most excellent and decidedly not a "kids movie" (though I'm sure plenty of kids enjoyed it while their parents unnecessarily squirmed, wondering if their kids were "getting it")

Rango was so very good. The obvious antecedents here are Chinatown, Sergio Leone, and Hunter S. Thompson, which would be strange starting points for a kids movie, but once again, it's not really a kids movie (not even in the sense that Pixar makes kids movies). 
When the mayor shows up in those overalls talking about "The future, Mr Rango" I was jumping outta my seat, but also knowing the many kids in the theater (and probably most of their parents) had no idea why I was laughing. And that's ok with me because I was laughing because it's a good joke. As is a joke that heaven involves "eating Pop Tarts with Kim Novak".

Rango had, for my money, the best villain in a movie this year: Rattlesnake Jake. 

A terrifying beast of unmatched size, strength, and smarts with a gatling gun at the end of his tail! Rango had to attempt to outsmart him. He is impossible to defeat, and thankfully, unnecessary to defeat in the end, because anything they could've done to kill him off would've felt like a cheat. 

Rango is a classic example of what Joseph Campbell would call a "reluctant hero". He's not interested in saving the day, he just wants to go home. Until he finds himself so enmeshed in the local drama that its impossible to stay away. "The spirit of the west" tells him no man can run away from his own story.

The animation is gleefully cartoonish. Gore Verbinski and his animators make no attempt to create "real-looking" animals. The characters ride ostriches in the desert of the American West (why not?) and everyone and everything is about the same size (save Rattlesnake Jake). The film is bright, colorful, and fast. What's not to love?

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