“Rango” preview report from Latino Review

More details on Rango from LatinoReview.com


If you know anything about Rango, it’s most likely from seeing the posters and banners hung at your local theater chain. It’s the one that pictures a chameleon in a red Hawaiian shirt against the background of the blue desert sky. It’s a children’s movie from Paramount and Nickelodeon Studios, but I’d venture a guess that the similarity between the Rango poster and the poster from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is completely intentional. That’s the type of movie it looks like Rango is going to be – not a straight Hunter S. Thompson children’s movie, but one that is none-the-less slightly off-kilter.
I was invited up to the Paramount screening room in Time Square to view some footage for Rango and listen to Gore Verbinksi (the director of the Pirates trilogy, now turned to ILM’s first character-animation film) describe his quirky little family comedy.

Previously on this site, you could have read a description of what fellow LR staffer Ron Henriques saw, including a breakdown of the footage and some pretty stills, but apparently that’s not supposed to be what we’re telling or showing you from a marketing perspective. Please note the above screencap of a “Rango” Google Image search, because I’m not supposed to show you any of these readily available images either.

Which is all kind of odd, because it feels like they are fishing for buzz. Sadly, that’s exactly what I want to give them.

Our protagonist is a chameleon who begins the film in a glass tank enacting a drama with the inanimate objects trapped with him, including a wind up fish named Mr. Tibbs who later makes some dream-sequence appearances in a roughly spirit-guide manner. The chameleon escapes and happens into the desert where he finds himself in a town called Dirt pretending to be a wandering gunslinger (because he is a chameleon who can pretend to be anything, he’s having a bit of an identity crisis at this point) named Rango.

Meanwhile, there is a thematic subplot about water, a Greek chorus made out of Mariachi Owls, walking cactus, a rattlesnake gunslinger and a Hunter S. Thompson cameo (also voiced by Depp, reprising his Las Vegas role that he will soon reprise again in The Rum Diaries). It has these parts that make it seem like watching a Dreamworks Animation movie while in the midst of a fever dream.

Rango was recorded over 20 days with all the voice actors acting out the parts, physically, on a sound stage like it was a high school theater rehearsal. We got a glimpse into this process with a mini featurette showing Johnny Depp, Bill Nighy, Abigail Breslin, Harry Dean Stanton and Isla Fisher in vaguely-western prop outfits leering and doing physical comedy. This is a similar process to The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which had it’s voice actors act out the scene on a location, playing in the dirt and timing things off each other. Rango looks to have benefited from this process most by applying the visual reference to the existing character designs. It’s easy to see Depp and Harry Dean Stanton in the characters they inhabit, even though the characters move through keyframe animation (is it odd that I’m starting to prefer this to motion capture?).

There are a lot of X factors about Rango, but Gore Verbinski is here to assuage my fears. He made an animatic, rough version of Rango over a year and a half with a core group of artists and designers, then he shot the script live with his cast, now he’s down to going endlessly over shots with ILM. All and all, I doubt there’s any way that Gore Verbinski is in the dark about what kind of movie Rango is.

Animation doesn’t work like a Pirates of the Caribbean film where post-production is about assembling the happy mistakes of live-action set pieces, animation is about endlessly revising a world that you have to create from scratch. I think Gore has seen Rango at least 3 times: once in his head (story), once in rough animatic form (design), and once with his actor’s making the voice track (performance). If he’s still digging it through the filters of the creative process, I at least owe it a look come March.

The worst case scenario, based on what I saw, is a forgettable display of impressive textures and pretty lizard designs. The best case scenario is something closer to The Fantastic Mr Fox: technically a kid’s movie, but a film that doesn’t need to violate what it is to talk to wider age range.

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