Johnny Depp has always been an experimental character actor trapped in the body of a guy who looks like Johnny Depp. But he finds a way to do an end run around the burden of his own good looks—and unleash his inner clown—in Rango, an abundantly silly and entertaining animated family comedy in which Depp brings voice and life to the film's unorthodox hero, a bulbous-eyed green lizard with big dreams.
Directed by Gore Verbinski (who has shepherded Depp through all three Pirates of the Caribbean movies), from a very funny script by John Logan, Rango both spoofs and celebrates the traditional Western set-up about a lone stranger in a hard-luck pioneer town. (Complete with a hilarious owl mariachi quartet singing a ballad of the story as it unfolds.) Big kudos are due to Industrial Light and Magic for its remarkable CGI animation; sure, the anthropomorphic cast of reptiles, rodents, and birds talk, walk upright and wear clothes, but each creature is rendered in impressively lifelike detail, right down to the tiniest scale and whisker. But the film is also a freewheeling pastiche of movie references (all genres, all eras) that will keep trivia fans on their toes, while amusing the young'uns with its slapstick verve. (Read more...)
One very cool thing about this movie is the way they filmed it with all the actors actually playing their parts on a soundstage together. Using an updated digital version of rotoscoping (the motion-capture cel animation technique pioneered by Disney in Snow White), Depp and his co-stars acted out entire scenes together on camera, from which their animated characters' physical movements were generated. This not only imbues the characters with loopy humanoid grace, the actors playing off each other keeps the dialogue fast and fresh as well.
Watch this funny featurette about how they shot it, then tell me your'e not dying to go see the movie right this minute!