Reason for the Rating: Rude humor, language, action and smoking
Plot Summary: Rango is a pet lizard who tumbles out of his terrarium and into a town in the desert who needs a hero, as their water is drying up.
PopFam Recommends: While maybe not being perfect for the youngest of kids, this is a great movie for older kids and adults and puts a lot of live action movies to shame.
At first, Rango (Johnny Depp) isn’t Rango; he’s just a pet lizard with delusions of thespian grandeur, kept company by half of a Barbie doll, a dead bug and a wind-up fish toy. He knows there is something missing from his makeshift plays he puts on with his “friends,” and finally comes to an epiphany: Any hero needs conflict.
At the height of his epiphany, his terrarium is thrown out of the car it’s being transported in, as the car dodges an armadillo crossing the road. The lizard finds himself alone in the middle of a desert. The crushed armadillo (who is resilient and peels himself off the highway) points him in the direction of the nearest town, “Dirt.”
Upon arriving in Dirt, the lizard realizes he can be anyone he wants to be and, using all his theater practice, takes the name Rango and tells stories of his brave acts as a tough guy of the desert. The town believes him, and he is named sheriff. The last sheriff lasted less than a week, but they don’t bother to mention that beforehand.
The town is in great trouble, as their water is drying up and everyone is being forced to sell their land and move elsewhere. One lizard, Beans (Isla Fisher), believes that someone is dumping all the water in the desert, but everyone thinks she’s just a crazy lizard.
When the town’s few remaining days of water supply is stolen, Rango has to lead a posse to capture the thieves and save the town from what seems to be a hopeless situation. What they find out is that Beans was right, and there is a more sinister plot underway. The town inevitably finds out that Rango is no real hero—he’s just been talking big all along—and Rango must decide who he will choose to be: a hero or a coward.
Rango is more than just an animated movie. It’s a western and a comedy and an action movie, and it’s a great example of all three. Although the plot is extremely reminiscent of 2006’s Flushed Away (a pet who finds himself stranded in an unknown land and fakes his way into becoming a hero), it is done very well. The action sequences are exciting and creative, the townspeople, ahem, townsanimals, are likable and funny (despite their rough exteriors), and the movie is a great example of the western genre, while being jam-packed with nods to other movies.
The computer-generated animation in this movie is also beautiful. The detail in all the animals they created—feathers, fur, and scales—were so well done as to be taken for granted. While the cast was not made up of cuddly, cute critters, but rather of hardened desert folk, they were believable and interesting and likable…if not cuddly.
The movie broaches serious themes such as what makes us who we are—our past or the actions we choose to take now—and what our role in our own story is. Because of these themes and what seems to be the director’s attempt at making a profound animated movie, this show might be a bit slow for the younger kids. The 5-year-olds around me were a bit restless during these more reflective scenes. (Besides the fact that the mean Rattlesnake Jake may be a bit scary for the younger kids.)
But, for the older kids and the adults, it was both fun, engaging, and thoughtful.
Let’s Talk About It
Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this movie:
• Do you think Rango was brave when he first reached Dirt?
• What do you think changed in Rango that made him go back to Dirt after Rattlesnake Jake scared him off?
• What do you think the Spirit of the West said when he said, “You can’t walk out on your own story?”
• What do you think this would mean in your own life?
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