With the new and apparently very stylish horror thriller A Cure for Wellness opening this weekend (I can’t wait to check it out…!), I went back and watched some bits and pieces from Gore Verbinski’s absolutely stunning CGI-animated adventure-comedy Rango. This is not a kid’s movie. Sure, kids will enjoy certain aspects of the film, but in general, this idiosyncratic and creepy effort feels much more designed for adults, as the plot cooked up by John Logan, James Ward Byrkit, and Verbinski essentially mimics Chinatown, the humor is sophisticated and plot-centric, and the characters, while certainly funny, have a distinct sense of menace that never quite makes any of them warm and cuddly. Johnny Depp’s voicing of the titular character is some of the most effective acting that he’s done in years; look out for the Hunter Thompson and Lawyer cameo which sets up the film’s inciting incident and opening set-piece.
The musical score by Hans Zimmer is one of that composer’s most underrated and offbeat, and visually, there are passages in this film that are utterly sublime, especially Rango’s existential walk through the desert under a starry nighttime sky that forces him to re-evaluate his life with Explosions in the Sky on the soundtrack. I’m a massive fan of Verbinski’s entire filmography; his Pirates trilogy is blockbusting on a grand scale, The Ring is still one of the freakiest film’s I’ve ever seen, I adore The Weather Man, and The Lone Ranger is mystifyingly underrated. He’s got a subversive streak that peppers all of his movies, regardless of budget, and he’s a maximalist in terms of his visual style and sense of cinematic atmosphere. Rango is easily one of my all-time favorite animated films.