Another cinema trip with the kids, so a rare munchkin-friendly outing with Industrial Light & Magic‘s new showcase piece.


“Stay in school, eat your veggies, and burn all the books that ain’t Shakespeare.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: A domesticated lizard finds himself lost in the desert and sheriff of a small frontier town.

ILM haven’t made a full length animated feature before. They’re better known for being one of the world’s premier special effects companies with more films to their credit than I’ve ever likely seen. They’ve gone all out with the technology and casting to make this impressive start (possibly) to a new wing of their business.

With Johnny Depp in the title rôle, it’s off to a good start. Add in the likes of Bill Nighy as an outlaw rattlesnake, Alfred Molina as an armadillo with a death-defying desire to cross the road, Ray Winstone as a cigar-chomping… something and Isla Fisher as the love interest and there’s been no skimping on the vocal talent. Hell, they’ve got Gore Verbinski (all the Pirates of the Caribbean films) to direct.

Depp rarely sounds like himself in this (does he ever?) but you can picture him playing the part in some scenes that seem written for his usual slightly off-kilter self. Rango himself is a strange character. Flung from a car in the opening minutes, he acts his way through the movie taking each event as a challenge and bluffing his way through. More by luck than judgement he ends up being a bit of a hero.

Now, I enjoyed the film although I thought it a teeny bit slow in places. Gill also enjoyed it. The two kids, however, weren’t so keen. It’s dark – not the bright, colourful explosion that appeals to most youngsters. The humour was quick and clever, but way over the heads with very little slapstick. The dialogue, also, was hard to follow in places. Very well acted, but the accents made it tricky for me in places. Younger audience members would surely struggle.

Visually, it’s superb. Absolutely on a plane of its own. The detail and movement make Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within look like a flip-book drawn in crayon. OK, that’s unfair on FF, but the whole look of the film really is incredible. You can tell a bunch of people with incredible mathematical brains have designed this film to show off their fluid dynamics and ray-tracing skills. Every bit of glass reflects and bends light, every grain of sand flows and drifts as realistically as it would in real life. Best of all, none of this takes away from the overall look of the film.

Definitely recommended for those who like their cartoon humour a little more subtle, and who appreciate when a lot of effort has been put into a production. Just hold out for the likes of Rio and that turtle film if  you’re going to be taking nippers with you.

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