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Rango

Year: 2011
Studio: Paramount
Director: Gore Verbinski
Producer: Gore Verbinski
Writer: Gore Verbinski/John Logan/James Ward Byrkit
Cast: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abagail Breslin, Ned Beatty, Ray Winstone, Bill Nighy, Alfred Molina, Stephen Root, Timothy Olyphant, Harry Dean Stanton, Charles Fleischer

This movie has a great style in the character design and it shows the full flight of what CGI can do. The colours, tones and detail are a perfect example of how design and execution can be called upon in the service of story. And while story is another aspect Hollywood excels at, originality of story is a different thing altogether.

That sounds like a criticism but it's not. Not any more than because nine out of ten other movies are remakes of themselves and each other. It's just that the stark originality in the characters and landscapes made me realise how I was watching the same premise over again. How many times have we seen the story of the little guy who gets to lie about his own greatness, fooling a desperate people in need of a hero and taking them along for his fraudulent ride?

You know two things. First, his ruse will be revealed at the worst possible moment when the stakes are highest. Second, he'll have to come back and prove he's the man he always tried to convince them he was, surprising even himself with his heroism and deeds. We've seen it everywhere from Three Amigos to Over the Hedge.

But even though you've seen this story a million times (and now you've seen a million computer animated kids'/family films), it's no less enjoyable for it. It had touches that we saw in last year's Despicable Me with some original ideas despite the familiar overarching rhythm and if it had been made by Pixar, it'd be up for Oscars.

Johnny Depp is a coddled but bored pet chameleon who gets lost in the desert (watch for the fastest in-joke ever as he splatters against Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' Raoul Duke and Dr Gonzo's windscreen along the highway) and comes across a township of desert animals who have a little society.

The town's slowly dying because the water's running out and when Rango spins a tale of brave deeds and fearlessness they immediately think he's their saviour and make him town sheriff. But there's a conspiracy behind the water shortage in the grandest Chinatown tradition and the kindly and slightly sinister old mayor (Beatty, finding a new niche here after playing Lotso the bear in Toy Story 3) and Rango will have to stand up to the fearsome Rattlesnake Jake (Nighy) to prove his mettle and shine a light on the official corruption.

There are plenty of laughs, the animation's great, and if nothing else you can sit back and play spot the voice, everyone from Harry Dean Stanton and Ray Winstone.

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