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Rango is an ordinary chameleon who accidentally winds up in the town of Dirt, a lawless outpost in the Wild West in desperate need of a new sheriff.
For more about Rango and the Rango Blu-ray release, see Rango Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on July 6, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy
Director: Gore Verbinski
» See full cast & crew
Rango Blu-ray Review
Rango, Django, Bingo, Bongo, this animated film is a real treat.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, July 6, 2011
It's the deeds that make the man.
The digitally-animated talking animal movie has grown up. Rango represents a step forward for, and one of the finest amongst, what is fast becoming the de facto golden child of the early years of the 21st century cinematic landscape. Rango is not only a breathtaking display of cutting edge modern technology in every scene, but it's also a far more structurally mature yet still elementally fun and diversional picture at its core, more so than most any of its contemporaries. Rango somehow balances all the critical elements and puts them on display with an uncanny harmony that hasn't been done so well since Wall●E and, really, had never been done before nor since, until now. Rango is a complete package of digitally-animated bliss, with nary a flaw to be found. One might argue that the film is thematically vacant and built on recycled parts; that would be true, but that would also be to gloss over what makes the film so special, and that is its ability to precisely refine every last ounce of Western motifs and genre character arcs and implement them into what is superficially a glorified kid's movie but that is at its center a polished work of art that's the best-looking animated movie yet. It's also one of the most entertaining and all-audience-friendly pictures in quite some time, making it a wonderfully balanced picture fit for any and all audiences and a wide range of expectations.
Just when a pet chameleon (voiced by Johnny Depp) with dreams of making it big in show business finally figures out what his stories need to succeed -- an unexpected event leading to great conflict -- he suddenly finds his life imitating would-be great art. He's accidentally ripped away from his human family of caregivers and left stranded in the middle of the dry and practically inhospitable Mojave Desert, and he assumes the worst when his first encounter is with a flattened armadillo (voiced by Alfred Molina) and a hungry hawk who sees in the chameleon a satisfying dinner. The pet-turned-wanderer survives the ordeal and happens upon a poor iguana rancher named Beans (Isla Fisher) who's stricken with a particular problem but takes pity on the lost, lonely, and thirsty chameleon and takes him back to her hometown of Dirt where water is a prized commodity. Unfortunately, the local bank's running low on the precious liquid, and the town's on edge. When the chameleon -- who's chosen to take on the name Rango -- tells tall tales of his make-belive heroics and manages to kill a flying menace out of sheer dumb luck, he's named Dirt's newest sheriff, a job he accepts, may not be very good at, but that promises to teach him a few things about himself while, just maybe, he can use his newfound clout to pull Dirt back from the brink of thirsty despair while he's at it.
Rango is a great success for a myriad of reasons, though all generally fall under either the "story" or "technical" umbrellas. As previously noted, both Rango's basic plot outline and story specifics alike lack even a hint of originality; take most any old generic off-the-shelf Western and find the same idea executed to various levels of efficiency. In Rango, the "out-of-towner with a big heart but no real inner confidence or outer toughness finds himself and strengthens his convictions to save the day" motif is worked on, rearranged, and delivered with a know-how that almost redefines the tired old clichés that are given new life in the film. The picture playfully entertains audiences by embracing one cliché after another while not only paying homage to everything from Once Upon a Time in the West to The Quick and the Dead but even adding in a nice "cameo" surprise to push the final act into action. It's that wholesale allegiance to the genre that gives Rango its charm, not to mention that neither the finest big-dollar Hollywood film nor the most outrageous, badly-dubbed Spaghetti Western feature a dusty old town populated by various creepy-crawly characters given personalities both well-defined but at the same time broadly-painted alike.
Indeed, the film can get away with its structural irrelevancy and thematic vacancy because of both its visual separation from the crowd and its total commitment to playing things as tonally straight as possible. At its most fundamental level, Rango in no way separates itself from the pack with a core that delivers a true but very broad and way overused theme that espouses self-respect, commitment to a goal, finding courage from within, standing up for what is right, and coming together as a community to overcome even the most difficult obstacle. While all of these give Rango both an admirable purpose and a terribly generic feel all at once, the themes, like the recycled plot and various genre homages, actually work to the film's benefit because they are so perfectly integrated into a whole that's as charming as it is action-packed and as funny as it is at times darkly serious and even downright frightening. It all plays well with the many action scenes, too; like everything else, the various battle scenes are way over the top and not particularly original, but they're highly entertaining and perfectly integrated into the whole nonetheless. That's really Rango's greatest asset. That the film can be so good while playing host to what should be any number of elements certain to doom a picture that dares be this conventional speaks volumes on how well it's all put together and, just as important in a film like this, how wonderful it looks.
Rango is without a doubt one of the finest looking digitally-animated movies ever made, and one could easily make a case for it being the absolute best of its kind. Even audiences becoming accustomed to brushing off the leaps and bounds by which the technology continues to impress with every yearly onslaught of digital films will be forced to marvel at the dazzling details and lifelike textures that abound in Rango. The movie is even worth seeing twice just give it its due on a purely technical level. Most of the film borders on fooling the brain into believing that it's live action; the textures on everything from reptilian skin to the smallest little wooden nuances within the town of Dirt are simply dazzling. Digital hairs and dusty terrains flow with startling realism, and even the "flat" 2D image takes on a perceptible shape and life all its own. Debate the merits of the movie all the livelong day, but there's absolutely no denying the visual splendor with which it plays out, and only theater patrons and Blu-ray viewers traveling back in time from ten years into the future could legitimately gripe at the level of technical proficiency evident in every frame. Fortunately, the voice acting backs up the dazzling visuals; the entire cast proves up to the challenge of bringing Rango's well-drawn characters and faultless animation to multifaceted, engaging, and believable life.
Rango Blu-ray, Video Quality
Flawless. Perfect. Exemplary. Unrivaled. Choose any positive adjective in the book, and it'll apply to Rango. Paramount's 1080p transfer almost defies description; it's better just to see it in action than read about it on the computer screen, but for the sake of completeness, here it goes. As noted above, the level of absolute digital perfection is almost shocking. No other animated movie has ever offered this much attention to detail, and the 1080p transfer picks up every last smidgen of visual wonder. Whether the rough and bumpy chameleon skin that's evident in most every frame, the finest little textures in the wooden structures around Dirt, or the smallest little fray in clothing, this transfer packs so much definition into each frame that it's a wonder how it all fits and how it looks this good. Even distant shots of paved roads and sandy terrains are immaculately detailed right down to the last little bump in the sun-drenched pavement or each pebble and grain of sand. In short, this one's awe-inspiring, breathtaking, again-whichever-adjective-fits in every single scene. Of course, such prefect detail need be accompanied by equally perfect color, and Rango comes up big in that area, too. The brighter shades are certainly a treat for the eyes; Rango's green leathery skin and bright clothes really stand out, but the transfer also excels in delivering the earthen, dull tan and brown shades of Dirt equally well. There's plenty of separation and definition, and never does the transfer struggle with color gradations. Black levels are spot-on perfect, too. A faux grain structure often adds a nice finishing touch to the image. Rango is arguably the reference demo disc of the year. It's nothing short of stunning, a revelation, even. It's easily the best looking animated title since Shrek Forever After to be released on Blu-ray, and it tops even that one. As of today, Rango may not have an equal in terms of absolute visual perfection.
Rango Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Rango's DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack may not be the equal to the accompanying video presentation, but that's understandable given that the 1080p transfer exists in some heretofore unknown stratosphere of excellence. As it is, Paramount's lossless track stands as its own sort of reference-grade presentation, but it just has to settle for little old "awesome" rather than "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!." This soundtrack is extremely well spaced; every element takes full advantage of the entire soundstage, yet it maintains a perfect balance where every sound exists in its place and all come together in harmony to create one of the year's best soundtracks. Music and sound effects alike are crisp and energized, all making fine use of the surround support elements yet remaining firmly focused in the front and maintaining that awesome equilibrium throughout. Major sound effects -- cars zipping through the listening area at film's open, gunfire tearing through the soundstage later in the movie -- are seamlessly integrated and delivered at just the right volume and audible texture. Lesser but no less critical support elements, such as a creaking overhead fan, the churning of the town's clock, light background winds, or a pleasantly annoying buzzing fly all help to create just the right sonic atmosphere and, just as important, are precisely implemented in the Blu-ray soundtrack. Rango is also the beneficiary of a potent and tight low end that's never unkempt or sloppy, finding the right mixture of "loud" and "real" with every kick of the subwoofer. Rounded into form by pitch-perfect, center-grounded dialogue, Rango's lossless soundtrack excels in every category.
Rango Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Rango features a plethora of bonus features, headlined by a quality commentary track, a strong making-of feature, a picture-in-picture storyboard comparison extra, and a virtual tour of Dirt.
Rango Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Rango is a spectacularly fun little movie that offers nothing new but shakes up a few old tricks, polishes them off, and places them in what is quite possibly the most gorgeously-rendered and impeccably-realized digitally-animated world yet. The movie is so much fun that it's easy to gloss over just how beautiful it is. That's a sign of all elements working in perfect harmony; there's just not a flaw here -- even considering the lack of thematic originality -- and Rango delivers as one of the best all-digital animated movies of them all. Equally impressive is Paramount's reference-quality Blu-ray release. Yielding faultless video and audio to go along with a fair assortment of extras, this is a must-own release and is all but guaranteed a spot in this year's best-of Blu-ray compilation list. Rango earns my highest recommendation.
Rango: Other Editions
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Rango Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Blu-ray Sales, July 18-July 24: Rango Repeats at No.1 - July 27, 2011
For the week ending 7/24/11, Rango remained on top of the Blu-ray and the overall sales charts. The Johnny Depp starrer, had a strong debut for Blu-ray last week, as it generated 46% of total unit sales from the HD format. In week number two of release, Blu-ray's ...
• Blu-ray Sales, July 11-July 17: Rango is in the Green - July 20, 2011
In its first week of release Paramount Pictures' Rango bowed on top of the Blu-ray and the overall sales charts. The Johnny Depp starrer finished its box office run with a worldwide total of $243 million and toppled two time Blu-ray weekly sales champ The ...
• Exclusive Giveaway: Rango - July 12, 2011
Blu-ray.com and Paramount Home Entertainment are giving three Blu-ray.com members the opportunity to win a copy of Rango, featuring the voice talents of Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher and Alfred Molina. Rango arrives on Blu-ray on July 15th.
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