Last night Paramount brought Gore Verbinski to its Times Square screening room to show off 8 minutes of footage from his new animated film Rango. The movie is an enormous change of pace from the erstwhile Pirates of the Caribbean franchise director, a comedic Western based around the character of a chameleon (voiced by Jack Sparrow himself, Johnny Depp) who finds himself in an Old West town and pretends to be a famed gunslinger in order to impress the locals.
Quite honestly, I had no idea what to make of Rango when I went to the preview, and hadn’t really even bothered to watch the trailer that debuted over the summer. The first surprise came at the beginning of the presentation, when an unassuming gray-haired guy in a jacket stepped up to the podium and said in a soft voice, “Hi, I’m Gore… the director.” The man who followed Jack Sparrow across the ocean in three different films was as quiet and modest as the Pirates films weren’t, and even as he was describing his film using references to Chinatown and Casablanca and describing desert-fueled hallucination sequences, I couldn’t quite figure out what I was in for. Then, wouldn’t you know it, he showed off the footage and I was totally stunned. Showing the scene as Rango arrives in town and faces down a hawk that lives to terrorize young reptiles, the movie was funny and fast-paced and utterly enjoyable, getting big laughs out of the audience of critics and forcing me to remember– oh yeah, Gore Verbinski is why the first Pirates was so good. Of course he can pull this off.
Looking totally weird and kinda gross– the characters are all desert creatures like armadillos and lizards and frogs– and like a real adventure, Rango is now high on my list of what’s worth seeing next spring. For more of my thoughts on the movie, check out the video I recorded in Times Square after the screening with pals Matt Patches and Dave Gonzales (camera work by Wilson Morales of BlackFilm.com, and much appreciated). We were all pretty excited about what we had seen, even though we still couldn’t quite figure out the meaning of the wind-up orange fish we had been given (that remains a mystery). Rango opens March 4, and in addition to Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Bill Nighy, Ned Beatty and more lend their voices to the film.