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Feature


A pet chameleon, (Johnny Depp) is accidentally thrown from his owner’s car in the middle of the desert and begins a journey of self-discovery that starts when he finds the town of Dirt. Haphazardly defeating the Hawk that terrorises the town’s animal-folk, 'Rango' becomes the town sheriff and when he discovers the town has a water shortage and that now that the hawk is dead baddie Rattlesnake Jake will no doubt return to the town, Rango soon realises he may have taken on more than he’d bargained for.

What do you mean is my neck okay?
Despite finding the Pirates sequels some of the dullest big screen adventures to sneak money out of my pocket and Alice in Wonderland being a movie I never want to see again, I can’t bring myself to lay any of the blame at Johnny Depp’s doorstep. Even at its most brain-dead, Captain Jack was always a delight to be around in the Pirates movies and even though I didn’t like the design choices of the Mad Hatter (he looked so much like Madonna), Depp still had a few (not many) great moments in Wonderland (well of course not the Futterwacken bit). More recently I thought he was great in The Tourist (“ You’re Ravenous” – “Don’t You Mean Ravishing?” still makes me chuckle just thinking about it) and generally no matter what level of fame he's at, he remains an actor who offers something different on screen and Rango just adds another great character performance to his filmography.

The first half an hour is just manic fun. A kid’s movie referencing Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is one thing but this movie seems unafraid to be as weird as it wants to be and lets Depp go as far out nuts as he wants, making Rango a great animated character with a ton of great lines. When the story begins to kick in and the authentic western sensibilities get going the story still manages to appeal to adults and kids alike and pulls off for the Old West what Kung Fu Panda managed to do with celebrating the old martial arts flicks.

Saved by a coke bottle - PHEW!
In many ways Rango has more in common with Fantastic Mr. Fox than it does to the Pixar and DreamWorks fare and for me that’s a refreshing thing. Those guys do family entertainment well enough not to leave much room for new competition (even from the likes of ILM who did this one). What the likes of Rango and Mr. Fox do is aim slightly more at the adults in the audience and without just relying on jokes only the adults will get. It’s more the playful screenplay with the fearless approach to going madcap whenever it wants to. Some of this stuff hits Monty Python madness and there are a few one liners are a lot sharper and adult than Pixar or DreamWorks would dare to approach.

Outside of the feel good western elements, the kookiness, the fantastic array of accents and the beautiful animation Rango really works because of its unique character in amongst the crowd of every growing animated movie. The entire population of Dirt are great fun to be around but at the centre of all is Rango. Depp’s performance really is brilliant and I liked him all the more for his odd traits as much as I did his sadder inflective moments. In fact the scene with the Spirit of the West (Timothy Olyphant) and the elements that surround it could very well be one of my favourite scenes of the year. This is all Depp and no amount of great animation could come to life without him behind the pretty pictures. This no fluke as his vocal performance in Corpse Bride was just as great and he obviously doesn’t consider vocals in animated movies being something he too simply coast through. Rango was a pleasant off beat surprise and watching it again here was as good as the first time out.

Well there's something you don't see in kid's movies much.

Video


Nothing looks more disappointing in standard definition than a good CG animated movie. For all of its pretty colours, beautiful moving textures and animated subtleties you always know throughout that it would really shine in HD and we’re only seeing half the story on DVD. That said, this is still a pretty looking transfer. Rango’s red shirt against his green skin looks great. All of that against the blue sky backdrop and dusty desert looks even better and when the cast of wild animal characters arrive, their different features all look great whether scaly or furred.

The entire movie feels more cinematic than the majority of animated movies out there, its 2.40:1 ratio combined with its western visuals give this a more classic feel and the attention to detail with costume designs and textures really are staggering, which again makes me wish this was in HD because this standard definition transfer has a softness that restricts the full glory of this presentation from really showing off.

That's a big snake!

Audio


There seems to be a little too much going on in the front speakers with this one. The dialogue lives there as well as the score and the rear speakers are really only used to fill out elements in the action sequences. This is noticeable from the opening scenes when Rango gets thrown around the highway's big rigs, it’s all happening up front and really only the odd bit of engine noise is alive in the rears. It’s not always the case of course as some scenes can really come to life, especially some of the wider shots that have wagons rolling, guitars being plucked and dialogue being spoken but the track does sometimes feel it needs a little more spread.

As for the basics, dialogue is crisp, the score is fun and full of good and strong instruments and the sound effect for gunshots, ricochets and all manner of western style effects adds a whole lot to the layered sound of Rango. All in all this is a good audio presentation but it does feel that there’s room for improvement a lot of the time.

Yay, the Man With No Name!

Extras


The disc opens with trailers for Puss in Boots, Kung Fu Panda 2 and then offers up the theatrical and extended cuts of the movie.

The first extra is the commentary track featuring director/co-writer Gore Verbinski, head of story James Ward Byrkit, production designer Mark ‘ Crash’ McCreery, animation director Hal Hickel and visual effects supervisor Tim Alexander. The track is a bit dry and really feels like a casual conversation about what’s on screen as opposed to a planned discussion with pre planned points to cover. This doesn’t make it a bad track as it feels quite personal but the conversations can sometimes get a little heavy on celebrating the technical side of things and how the visuals were created other than the story beats and of course the homages but it’s still all interesting stuff for the most part.

The only other extras on this DVD release is the ten deleted scenes (08:16) which are in the extended version anyway and a trailer for the Rango game,  so this release does feel a little lacking when compared to the Blu-ray release.

Hey, I thought you said there was a drought in this town?!

Overall


Rango is a whole lot deeper and layered than a lot of animated movies out there and made for a great alternative in the years animated roster. The DVD here has a great transfer and solid bit of audio (but you know it’d be loads better in HD) and the features are seriously lacking compared to what else out is out there (again making the Blu-ray a better option) so those opting for the DVD release might want to use this release as the time to consider that upgrade.


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