13 07 2011

It’s very hard to serve two audiences at once, especially when those audiences are kids and adults.  At every animated movie, there have to be some parents to drive the children and pay the ridiculously extravagant ticket prices (or go to Blockbuster, Redbox, or foot the Netflix bill).  It’s always prudent for animators to make the movie an enjoyable experience for both so everyone wants to give it a second watch.  However, very few can do this with success; I’d say only Pixar and the people behind “Shrek” have really nailed it.

Rango” is an example of how this strategy can go south quickly.  It’s a little too out there for the youngsters and a little too dumbed down for the oldies.  At the age of 18, I fall somewhere between these two crowds, thus I felt it was a half-hearted attempt to squeeze me from both sides of my maturity.  Rather than this moving me like it did in “Toy Story 3,” it just made me feel ambivalent and a tad frustrated.  However, my frustration paled in comparison to my ten-year-old brother and his pal that I took, neither of whom seemed to understand the movie’s humor or plot.

While I sure like the idea of fusing together an existential identity crisis with Greek tragedy complete with a chorus of owls and classic westerns (although I could have done without the animated rodents), it doesn’t play out all that well on screen.  Especially not for the kids, who have most likely never seen either of the two genres.  For adults who have seen both, it feels campy and watered-down to the point of minimum satisfaction.  While it boasts some nice animation and a fair amount of good laughs, “Rango” can’t solve its own identity crisis of which crowd to pander primarily to – a problem which should have been sorted out long before it hit theaters.  Oh, and there’s also the matter of Johnny Depp’s frustratingly neurotic chameleon that needs to scurry back into Woody Allen’s therapist’s office.  B- / 



One response

14 07 2011

I tend to hate kids’ movies that try to appease and entertain adults by saturating the narrative and plot with innumerable pop culture references, but I actually think that Rango finds a way to make the allusions to the great Westerns work by making its protagonist the kind of character who probably loves those very stories. The plot, derived from Chinatown and The Shakiest Gun In the West (among other things), gives Rango the chance to live out some of the stories he’s likely familiar with himself. So when he runs into the incarnation of the Spirit of the West, who looks like The Man With No Name and sounds like Seth Bullock, it’s only appropriate.

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