Sunday, July 10, 2011

Rango: An entertaining animated Western for the whole family

Rango (animation, comedy, adventure)
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Starring the voices of Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Bill Nighy and Ned Beatty

Paramount Pictures | 2011 | 112 min | Rated PG | Released Jul 15, 2011

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
French, Portuguese, Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish

50GB Blu-ray Disc
DVD copy (with digital copy)

The Film 4/5

The Blu-ray includes the 107-minute theatrical version and a 112-minute extended version.

Rango (Depp) is an aquatic chameleon who is trying to discover his purpose in life. He lives alone in a tank until the car it is being transported in hits a bump and gives him his freedom in the desert. His journey begins when he discovers an armadillo and is told to visit the nearby town of Dirt if he wants to find water. He’s given a ride by Beans (Fisher), who owns land in the valley and drops him off in town.

Rango begins the movie as a liar who is unsure of his capabilities, until dumb luck elevates him in the eyes of the locals and he starts to believe in himself. He represents hope as the townspeople struggle to find the water they need to survive.

The first part of the story is not particularly encouraging. It moves at a frantic pace and initially relies on characters being hurt, and belch or fart jokes for comic relief. But things eventually settle down and the story starts to work. It references many movies from the Western genre, including True Grit and High Noon. Some scenes pay tribute to other movies such as Star Wars.

The story is simple, but the setting and design of the characters is extremely detailed. There’s also a wealth of voice talent in the supporting cast, including Ray Winstone, Harry Dean Stanton, Abigail Breslin and Timothy Olyphant, as well as the main cast.

The dialogue isn’t typical and a lot of it won’t be easily understood by children. The characters mention chromosome pools, paradigm shifts and aquifers. Rango, in particular, is very articulate. It’s quite refreshing to see this kind of thing in an animated movie. Maybe some of the kids will ask their parents to explain terms they don’t understand. Even though some of the dialogue is complex, the story is easy to follow.

The movie is a mix of fast-paced action, dumb jokes, clever jokes, battle scenes and quiet moments in which Rango contemplates his existence. There are problems to be solved, misunderstandings and traditional themes of good versus evil. One of my favorite elements is the use of a mariachi band, composed of four owls, documenting Rango’s tale through the use of various songs.

I won’t reveal any more of the plot, but I found Rango to be an enjoyable ride. The first 30 minutes had me worried because of the pacing and the dumb jokes, but things improve significantly in the last hour. I often have problems adjusting to the style of North American animation after seeing one of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, and I viewed Spirited Away a few days ago. Once I accepted that Rango was a totally different style; I started to enjoy it more.  It’s not perfect, but it’s well worth your time.

Video Quality 5/5
If you’ve ever seen a Pixar movie on Blu-ray, you’ll have an idea what to expect from Rango. I couldn’t detect a single fault. Colors are striking and detail is exceptional. All of the backgrounds seem properly finished and add depth to the image. When you see Rango’s face at the start of the movie, it looks like he’s in the room with you. Clothing, skin, scenery and water are all displayed perfectly. This is a presentation that shows off the Blu-ray format wonderfully. Nobody will be disappointed with the look of the movie.

Audio Quality 5/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track doesn’t disappoint either. There’s a lot going on throughout the movie and the lossless audio handles everything well. Some of the battle scenes are particularly loud, while other scenes rely on music for maximum effect. The rear speakers are used frequently and I didn’t detect any faults in the mix. The image will dazzle you, but you’ll be happy with the sound too.

Special Features 4/5

The additional features are all presented in full HD.

Audio Commentary (Extended version only) with Director, Gore Verbinski; Head of Story James Ward Byrkit; Production Designer Mark "Crash" McCreery; Animation Director Hal Hickel; and Visual Effects Supervisor Tim Alexander.

Breaking the Rules: Making Animation History (48:52) – A two-part feature consisting of The Stage is Set and Now we Ride. Learn about how the movie was made and see the evolution of the characters.

Deleted Scenes (8:27) – A brief look at 10 additional scenes which will seem very familiar if you watched the extended version of the movie.

Real Creatures of Dirt (22:15) – Showing real desert creatures such as snakes, scorpions, tarantulas and armadillos.

Storyboard Reel Picture-in-Picture (theatrical version only)

A Field Trip to Dirt – An interactive digital model which allows you to ride through the town and look around.

Theatrical Trailer (2:27)



DVD Copy (digital copy on disc)

Rango is a fun way to spend almost two hours. Although some of the dialogue is complex, the movie is suitable for the whole family and has something for everyone. The blend of action and humor works well overall and the animals make interesting and memorable characters. The Blu-ray is just about perfect and Rango immediately ranks among the best presentations the format has to offer.

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