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Rango Early Reviews: "One Spectacular-Looking Movie," "Chaotic," "Wildly Imaginative" (UPDATED)

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood March 1, 2011 at 9:27AM

Rango is a gorgeous CGI animated homage to the Hollywood western from Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski, ILM, screenwriter John Logan and a great voice cast led by Johnny Depp. The VFX masters at ILM put their genius to work on a piece of CGI animation (blessedly not in 3-D) , and the results are wondrous, from the character animation to the action sequences. But while Logan is an Oscar-nominated studio scribe (The Aviator) who knows his westerns, this is not a Pixar film. On the one hand the pacing lags, and on the other, they don't seem to have a handle on how to make it play for both adults and kids. (Younger viewers in the theater were bored.) But for any student of animation or western buff, Rango is a must-see.
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Thompson on Hollywood

Rango is a gorgeous CGI animated homage to the Hollywood western from Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski, ILM, screenwriter John Logan and a great voice cast led by Johnny Depp. The VFX masters at ILM put their genius to work on a piece of CGI animation (blessedly not in 3-D) , and the results are wondrous, from the character animation to the action sequences. But while Logan is an Oscar-nominated studio scribe (The Aviator) who knows his westerns, this is not a Pixar film. On the one hand the pacing lags, and on the other, they don't seem to have a handle on how to make it play for both adults and kids. (Younger viewers in the theater were bored.) But for any student of animation or western buff, Rango is a must-see.

Check out some early reviews:

Roger Ebert:

"Rango is some kind of a miracle: An animated comedy for smart moviegoers, wonderfully made, great to look at, wickedly satirical, and (gasp!) filmed in glorious 2-D. Its brilliant colors and startling characters spring from the screen and remind us how very, very tired we are of simpleminded little characters bouncing around dimly in 3-D."

Pam Grady, Box Office Magazine:

"…there is nothing typical about Rango…Wonderfully animated, witty and wildly imaginative, it is full of jokes that will fly over kids' heads (or even their parents if they aren't dedicated film buffs) but should still hold their attention with its cast of colorful characters. This reteaming of Depp with his Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski looks like a lock to emerge as the first genuine blockbuster of 2011…The movie references fly thick and fast in this smart comedy. Western fans in particular will have a field day sorting them out, but there are other allusions, too…Cinematographer Roger Deakins served as visual consultant on Rango, as he did on Wall-E and How to Train Your Dragon, and his input shows…this is one spectacular-looking movie. There is a sense of texture and a play of light and shadow that is absolutely gorgeous and so rich that its 2D images suggest 3D."

Glenn Heath Jr., Slant:

"There are times when Depp's manic performance becomes unhinged, and like their collaborations on the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Verbinski can't rein in his tiresome wacky schtick. Thankfully, there are clever odes to the aerial assault in Apocalypse Now, the water/power motif in Chinatown, and Hunter S. Thompson's drugged tirade across the desert in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas that add texture to the film's often messy narrative…Verbinski fails to consistently merge Rango's many chaotic moving parts, but he creates enough striking individual moments to make Rango a thematically relevant western/animated mosaic."
Thompson on Hollywood


Glenn Kenny, MSN:

"Whereas the relentless pop-culture winks and nods in any number of DreamWorks animated pictures seems to have been focus-grouped to overstimulated death, Rango wears the genuine and personal quirkiness of its makers on its sleeve, while at the same time being pretty relaxed about the whole thing. While the film's action set pieces are indeed exhilarating and ingenious, the picture's overall vibe has an almost uncannily relaxed feel to it. While Verbinski has a background in punk rock, and Depp has been known to base characters on Keith Richards and make records with the Butthole Surfers, there are certain aspects of Rango that have something like a ... well ... don't tell anybody ... but a friendly-to-Deadheads-and-children-of-Deadheads vibe…I can attest that it's kind of a pleasure and relief to see an animated picture that is, in its way, as smart and cool as anything produced by Pixar, but that doesn't feel obliged to provide really BIG EMOTIONAL MOMENTS the way that Pixar films tend to."

Shaun Munro, ObsessedWithFilm:

"Rango is an easy film to want to like because it looks fantastic, has Johnny Depp back in the saddle of something resembling good work, and seems to be on the face of it an informed skewering of the conventions of the Western. It’s ultimately a pastiche-by-numbers and doesn’t live up to its full potential, but as a visual treat and one of Depp’s better vehicles of recent years, it delivers the basic goods. Just don’t expect it to linger long after you’ve left the cinema."


Thompson on Hollywood

This article is related to: Box Office, Directors, Genres, Headliners, Studios, Stuck In Love, Reviews, Production , Winter, Animation, Johnny Depp, Paramount/Vantage/Insurge/CBS, Critics, VFX


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.