Tuesday, July 10, 2012

No man can walk out of his own story.

Every chance I get, I use self-checkout at the grocery store. It's usually much faster. Removing people from the equation makes the experience better. While watching yesterday's movie, I started to think that computer animation is doing this to movie-making. Now, hold on, I'm not a complete idiot. Yes, there are still actors bringing the characters to life with their voices, and hundreds of impossibly talented digital artists behind them. So, clearly, we still need flesh and blood - fine. But, there were countless times during this flick that I was just as immersed in what the talking chameleon in the cowboy hat was doing as I would have been watching actual people. For me, that's incredible. But for an actor, it might be worrisome. They might go the way of the cashier.

I honestly can't imagine how anybody would greenlight this lunacy.
Last year's Rango is a fantastic movie. And while it's legitimately a western it is not a kids movie. Don't let the Nickeldeon logo fool you. Director Gore Verbinski and star Johnny Depp have joined forces (yet again) to craft a very entertaining, heartfelt and non-stop tale about the search for meaning and companionship in life.

If you enjoy nothing else, the visuals are insanely inspired and detailed. But under all that digital wizardry, is a very compelling story about a guy, well, chameleon, trying do the right thing in the face of overwhelming adversity. The theme is nothing new, but it's told in a revolutionary way.

Now let me pump the breaks for a second. I watch a lot of programming directed at the little ones (my son is almost three), so I see a lot of laziness. Poor animation, bad jokes and a heavy reliance on violence permeates a ton of it (especially the older stuff). So when I see something good, I might often jump over to great. Granted, this one turned out not even to be a kids movie, but it at least explains my raving adoration a bit.

So, what's it about? I was afraid you'd ask that, but here goes. An erratic chameleon finds himself freed of his cage and alone in the desert. Well, for the moment. Soon, he meets a variety of animals hardened by the lack of water in their town, Dirt. Our hero not only loves a good story, but loves telling a good story, and this quickly gets him in over his head. Like the new kid in school who initially gets by on wondrous tales of his previous accomplishments, Rango eventually has his questionable past catch up with him. He gets knocked down, beaten up and exposed, but he also gets incredibly lucky, too. As is anybody willing to spend 111 minutes watching this borderline masterpiece.

Obviously, I really liked this movie. But in fairness, I might have been the only one in the room who did. To my right, my son tuned it out after he was done eating popcorn, so maybe it's altogether light and fluffy. To my right, was my father, and he instantly passed out, so it might possibly be very boring, too. But, it's more likely that was a heat-induced coma, as he was working in the yard earlier. But, me, in the middle? I was glued.

Let's break this one down with some photo-realistic Yays and Boos, this-completely-deserved-the-Oscar style.

Each action scene is better than the one prior. The first is great.
  • Johnny Depp. I know, surprise!, right? Really went out on a limb there, huh? But no one else in the world could have done this. No one.
  • The animation is flawless. I also loved that they didn't bother with 3D when it was released theatrically. It was incredible as is, no gimmicks needed.
  • A nod to Hunter S. Thompson? I'm at a loss for how cool that was.
  • The first bar scene. I dare you not to laugh.
  • The vending machine bit. It's madness and ridiculous but it's also soooo cool. 
  • As is the death of a very fearsome predator. One-bullet.
  • I'm sorry, but punching a woman in the face is like seeing a complete rainbow. It's rare, but it's magical.
  • There's a character with an arrow through his eye. Trust me, this is funny.
  • Perhaps one of the best scenes in any animated movie ever, let me stand up and cheer for The Spirit of the West. It was pure heaven. I mean, it was like eating Pop Tarts with Kim Novak.
Can I have your boots when you're dead?
  • Parental Advisory: If my son had actually been paying attention, by the end of this one he'd probably be using Hell in every other sentence. Dad, where the Hell is Doc McStuffins? 
  • The poor armadillo splattered in the road. I'm only booing this because as a young boy in Texas, this is the only way I ever saw them. I swear that's how they're born: destroyed along the side of the road.
  • Only because I want a third 'o' in the header, I'll jeer that this sucker is too long. Sure, I watched the extended cut, but jumping from 107 to 111 minutes isn't that big a deal. That we hit a hundred at all, is.
    Will we reach a point where animation looks so lifelike we won't be able to tell the difference? I don't know, but the bar is being raised exponentially higher every year. How long will it be until we look back at Rango and laugh because it looks about as realistic as an episode of Gumby (youngsters, feel free to Google that)?
    Regardless, like anything, being gorgeous is never a bad thing, but at the end of the day it needs something inherently human to make it all come together and mean something. Rango has this in droves.


    1. Glad you enjoyed the movie so much! I really loved it, all the movie refrences and nods were so cool and the characters were very likable. But man, those poor armadillos! :(

    2. I know, right? It was so much better than I thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to be kids movie shite, but it was so much better.