Animation for adults in this Western spoof

2011-03-21 00:00

THE latest offering from Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp, who created the enormously successful Pirates of the Caribbean franchise out of the flimsiest of source material (an attraction at Disney World), is a riff on old Westerns. A stranger arrives in a town beset by corruption and veniality and brings order and peace.

Depp voices Rango, a chameleon. If you wonder, as I did, what an African chameleon is doing in the American West, there’s a plausible back story.

The town in question, Dirt, suffers from a water crisis, with the unpredictable supply controlled by the mayor (a ancient, golf-playing wheelchair-bound tortoise) and his henchmen, and threatened by a family of robbing gophers (I think they were gophers: unfamiliarity with the animals of the American desert makes telling some of the creatures apart a bit tricky).

The chameleon (quite a good joke in itself on Depp’s ability to disappear into a character), having spun a tall tale and defeated a common enemy, gets himself appointed sheriff, complete with six-shooter and silver star.

When the town bank (which stores water, not money) is robbed, he leads a posse to take on the gophers, and subsequently discover the real reason for the scarcity of water.

There are some brilliant scenes involving a flock of bats, reminiscent of battles in Star Wars, and a cameo appearance by an iconic figure of Western movies (I won’t say who). The staging is ingenious, providing lots of laughs for adults, and the action is well done (although it loses a bit by not being seen in 3D — CineCentre’s 3D cinema is apparently coming soon).

However, as entertainment for children, I think Rango falls short. The story is a bit too complex and the humour largely relies on familiarity with the genre that is being spoofed. The biggest laughs when I saw the film came from adults, and the littler kids seemed bored.

Animation is not neccessarily only or even mainly for kids — this is one that is really mainly for adults.

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