Over the past few months, Rango has been a film I have been eagerly anticipating, but I have to admit I truly had no idea just what the film was about. Oh sure I knew it was a Western of sorts, and its title certainly cast illusions that it might be tangentially related to Sanjuro. But in terms of actual plot I really had no idea what I was in for with Rango. But what I did know, is that I had to see it. Of the films coming out early this year, Rango was one of the first to catch my eye. The cast is absolutely monstrous, and the animation looked fantastic. Couple in Gore Verbinski as the director and I knew the film had as good a chance of any of being a fun film, but would it ever be anything more than that?
Within a few moments Rango made sure to let me now it was aiming for more than being a fun children’s animated film, for Rango is an actor. An actor who doesn’t know who he is, because he spends all his time investing in trying to figure out who his character is. Immediately the film had put me on notice that this was to be an examination on film itself, though it made sure to keep the fun at the forefront as often as possible.
But as it launched into numerous movie in-jokes (up to an including adaptions of classic scores, running gags and several rollicking cameos) I fell deeper and deeper into its wonderful web. A web shot and framed based on the recommendations of one Roger Deakins, and the result is incredibly cinematic, made even more incredible by the fact the entire thing is animated. You will be hard pressed to find a better looking film this year, and this is a year with films from Tarsem and Terrence Malick still on the docket.
But while the look of the film is second to none, and blessed with a level of style rarely seen in American animation, Rango possessed far more than just good looks for its audience. It also made sure that it was funny, entertaining, fun and incredibly unique. But even better, while it is a film that most certainly will entertain kids, it can only truly be appreciated when you have thousands of movie watching experiences under your belt, and plenty of time to watch Rango over and over again to fully take in the vast density of each frame. And as I sat in wonder, awed by the sheer enjoyment brought to me in each single solitary frame, I soon realized that Rango was the first great movie of 2011.
[Matt Gamble is a regular on the Row Three Cinecast, and this review is cross published from his own blog, Where The Long Tail Ends.]