Rango ***+

March 10, 2011 by Arts Editor
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The first animated film from ILM is also the first memorable motion picture of 2011.

Also, in a break from Hollywood’s incessant race to surcharge parents to death by releasing anything bearing the “family film” moniker in 3-D, Rango is available in 2-D and only in 2-D. Watching this movie unfold may remind viewers why 2-D is not an inferior format. The image pops with clarity and color. It’s bright and vivid. And it’s a lot easier to lose oneself in the world crafted by the filmmakers without the unwelcome and unnecessary accessory of a pair of cheap plastic glasses. Rango is the poster child for those who are anti-3-D, and a great reminder that genuine creativity doesn’t need a gimmicky crutch to appeal to audiences.

Rango is a celebration of the Western. It’s a comedy but, like Blazing Saddles (although without the R-rated edge), it exposes a deep, abiding love for and knowledge of the genre. Working in concert, director Gore Verbinski, screenwriter John Logan, and composer Hans Zimmer have developed a tapestry that’s stitched together using references to every great movie to come along during the Western’s heyday. The dialogue incorporates lines (or variations thereof) from the past. Shot selection mimics classic moments. The music utilizes recognizable cues and, at times, imitates entire themes. All of the Western motifs and clichés are employed, from the showdown at high noon to the lonely tumbleweed being hurried along by a dusty wind. One of the villains, the ominous Rattlesnake Jake, bears more than a passing resemblance to Western Legend Lee Van Cleef. And The Man With No Name makes a cameo (with Timothy Olyphant doing a passable Clint Eastwood imitation).

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