Warning: Contains plot spoilers. Read on at your own risk.
“You can’t walk out on your own story,” drawls the Clint Eastwood-like sage as he leans back toward the defeated, demoralized, and shamed Rango. And that is the essence of a wonderfully realized story, brimming with thematic and visual originality. Rango promises laughs and it does not disappoint. Young and old alike will double over at the antics of the characters as they muster up Cowboy-like rodent and lizard squints, and suthun (yes, I know suthun is actually spelled southern) accents while regaling each other with tales of heroism from days gone by, and the present misery of trouble.
Enter Rango. He is a lizard-like creature. I am guessing a gecko. He sports a colorful Hawaiian shirt and imagines himself the center of social attention among the inanimate objects that comprise his carefully contained world. That is, until the car in which he is being transported narrowly misses a crash and sends him and his world (a fish tank habitat) on to the desert floor somewhere outside of Vegas, as he will discover later.
Rango is ripped from his safe habitat with his tight social circle where everybody (the inanimate objects) loves him and his stories of heroism. He is thrust into the real world of desert survival with no apparent skills to encounter predators, bad guys, and a cute lizard girl who tends to freeze at the most inopportune moments. So he resorts to what he knows best, telling tall tales. Oh the tales he tells. He persuades his newfound friends to love him, really, really love him. He is the top dog, erm, gecko in this here lil outpost town called Dirt. The townfolk believe in him. For the first time they have hope! Until it is discovered that it was all a lie. A sham. A fraud. And his enemy, the mean rattle snake, exposes the truth of it all in the presence of the crowd, thereby shaming Rango into admitting it. He is run out of town a broken lizard, leaving behind the broken hopes of those who believed in him. And that is when he hears those words.
“You can’t walk out on your own story,” drawls the Clint Eastwood-like sage as he leans back toward the defeated, demoralized, and shamed Rango. Because of that encounter and the moments that follow, Rango owns up to his failures, and his responsibility to the people he had let down. In that moment, he sets aside the tall-tale personna and takes on a far more dangerous role. A man. Erm, a gecko. But you get the idea. He walks back with his head held high and exposes the true villain of the town, the– okay, okay. I will stop there. You will have to see for yourself.
Rango surprised me with its depth of emotional appeal. I expected a light-hearted, forgettable romp into the imagination of the storytellers. It was a fun and entertaining romp, but it was in no way light-hearted or forgettable. Instead, it indelibly challenges me as I navigate through the perils of my personal story. Indeed, you can’t walk out on your own story, tempting as it might be. It will mean different things for different people, but as characterized for Rango, it meant facing problems, errors, and bad choices, not avoiding them. It meant living a real story, not merely dwelling in imaginary tall-tales bereft of meaning or relationship.
Rango is not for young children. There are multiple instances of thematic violent creature peril and menacing. There are also multiples uses of the word hell as swearing, and at least one other choice swear word which fit the character and scene, but unfortunately also served alongside the other issues to raise the rating to PG, rather than G. Older children (grades 3 and older) should be fine, but only with parental discretion.
I like Rango. It deserves notice from those willing to allow an animated feature to cause them to laugh, think, and commiserate with the Wild West Rodent and Lizard folk of the deep Southwest.