You ask for a spark. It comes in the form of an animated movie, “Rango”, with Johnny Depp voicing the lead role of a chameleon forced out of his element and made to survive – and thrive! – in a tiny critter version of a Wild West town.
Rango received 89% on the Tomatometer, which is a decent score, if not great. I’m guessing Toy Story 3 got something like 95%, because who doesn’t like Tom Hanks? Nobody, that’s who. But Rango is by far the better movie. It’s a classic of the form – film, not just animated film – and is one of those rare films that I wanted to see again as soon as I was walking out of the theater.
The Guardian review described it as “trippy”, and I agree – the script combines elements of pop-shamanism, mysticism, existential self-reflection, and armadillo spirit guides, and at the same time blows us over with Hollywood insider-ish references. The Clint Eastwood scene, for example, was so abrupt and surprising and that I laughed out loud – along with most of the other adults in the audience. And knowing that Rango is acting – capital “A” Acting – throughout gives us an extra layer of drama beneath the foreground events.
My main props go to the screenwriting team, who weave everything together so well that you’re never “out” of this magical universe they’ve created. They’ve taken the classic western story – a stranger comes into town, becomes the sheriff, and helps the townspeople out of a pickle – and tweaked it ever so lovingly.
I should point out, however, that the animation is TREMENDOUS. From a guy who has long thought that 3-D would be the only thing cooking in the future, this is conceding a big point. I noticed how good the animation was when I was watching the little mole-girl talk, and noticing that each little hair on her snout looked perfectly drawn/created/digitized/whatever.
I would be shocked – shocked! If Rango didn’t get nominated for a host of awards next winter. It’s that good.