Rango Movie Review

rangoSo I finally had the chance to watch the Academy Award winning film Rango tonight. I had never seen it because a bunch of my friends at the time were very offended by it, so I never bothered.

I wish I could ask them what it was that offended them because it is definitely a very strange movie but I wasn’t offended.

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That said, I didn’t really care for it either. The artistic style I found off putting and there is a certain garishness to the story, dialogue I didn’t like.

It is a very strange movie and I appreciated some of the risks they took but it is not a pleasant film to watch. I don’t know if that makes sense but sometimes you look at a piece of art and you can see it is ambitious and groundbreaking and yet find it disgusting at the same time.  That’s what Rango felt like to me.

It’s about a pet lizard named Rango who is abandoned in the desert. There are a lot of surrealist moments at the start with a armadillo that has been run over but is still alive who is delusional and then other animals he meets and then he is chased by a hawk in a long sequence.  The story takes a long time to get going but eventually he makes it to an old west town called Dirt.

Tortoise_John_telling_Beans_to_sign_the_deed_to_her_father's_ranch Rango-shoot-out-007

Everything in Dirt is ruled by water and there are a lot of bad guys- a Gila monster (Ray Winstone), a desert turtle (Ned Beatty), a rattlesnake (Bill Nighy), a mole (Harry Dean Stanton), a hawk that can’t speak, and a bunch of rats that I think were bad.  Honestly I lost track after a while.  There were so many characters and the story didn’t make much sense.  Rango becomes Sheriff of Dirt and I guess that was explained but I  missed it. But he fights outlaws and there are bar room brawls and standouts.

Rango-Critters-2There is also a girl iguana called Beans who’s father owned land that the turtle tries to get her to give up throughout the movie. She is the only female character and an obvious love interest for Rango but she is treated in the movie like a man and so there is no chemistry or witty banter between the two. Honestly it seemed like Rango was in a different movie than the rest of the characters. It was weird.

There is a vault that is opened which has the town’s water and the bank manager is killed and the turtle controls the vault.  But they end up with only 6 days of water left.

About an hour into the movie they start on a journey to find water and I started to enjoy it more. There was more of a traditional narrative as opposed to the randomness of the earlier part of the movie.  It is also a movie set in modern times so why can’t they get the water?  It is also not like Great Mouse Detective where humans are living in the town and animals.  No, this is just a town for animals. But it is set in the old west but not really but why?

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It was just a confusing movie and I didn’t think it was funny or aesthetically pleasing.  Even the way Rango’s eyes moved I found kind of unsettling and distracting.  It was like looking at someone with a lazy eye (I have a lazy eye so I know of what I speak) and they never look you straight in the face but their eyes are constantly moving. There is also 2 scenes where a hawk (long scenes) chases Rango in a bottle and a vending machine that do nothing for the story.

I’ve rarely been more befuddled by a film.  I guess it is one that just doesn’t appeal to me. I can see why others who appreciate randomness and the type of art love it. And if you are super knowledgeable about westerns than you might like it. Not everything has to be made for my aesthetic but it would have been nice to have at least a story I could follow with characters that made sense.  I think I am pretty open minded when it comes to artistic expression and creative films.

As it is, its too cluttered, confusing, and convoluted.

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Also, who is this movie made for? It’s not adult enough to be like a South Park or ‘adults only’ animated movie. But I can’t imagine any kids following the plot and myriad of characters or getting any of the jokes.  Part of the problem is kids haven’t seen the Western movies it constantly spoofs.  There is even a Dirty Harry cameo from Clint Eastwood.  Most young adults haven’t seen many westerns let alone kids. I wish I had seen more Westerns and it is on my list so I think a lot of the homages and spoofs were lost on me.  I don’t know.  I just don’t get who the movie is geared towards?

It kind of felt like they dumped all their ideas into a canon and then just put it all on screen without regards to a cohesive story or characters that made sense or we could keep track of.

Giving a grade is tough because it is thoughtfully made but it just didn’t work for me.  The last 45 minutes it gets better but I didn’t care for it. Sorry!

Overall Grade- D+

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Into the Woods: A Review

into_the_woodsHollywood’s latest stab at the Broadway musical adaptation, Disney’s Into the Woods, is mostly great, even brilliant, except when it isn’t.  I’ve rarely left a movie feeling more befuddled and mixed in my responses.  One side of me loved it and another was very frustrated.

In fact, if you had asked me at the 1 1/2 hour mark what I thought it would have been an enthusiastic A+ when it seemed like everything was ending and happy and then it took a turn.  In the movie’s defense the play takes that same turn but it felt like one ending too many and honestly it was a part of the play I was hoping would be omitted or glossed over.

Well, let’s talk about the good things because there are a lot.  Most importantly the singing.  It is uniformly great.  There is no Russell Crowe or Pierce Brosnan to suffer through.  They all sound Broadway level quality. Some we knew could sing like Meryl Streep (Mamma Mia, Prairie Home Companion), Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect), and Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd).  Others were not familiar to me as singers but do very well like Emily Blunt and Chris Pine.

I have no complaints about the singing and that is saying something because Stephen Sondheim’s music is no easy task to perform.  He is extremely challenging to sing because his musicals aren’t all that melodic and he loves minor keys and strange chords and key signatures.  On the Steps of the Palace changes keys like 4 times in 1 song.  It’s extremely difficult but they all did a great job.

The cast was also uniformly strong in their acting of these fairytale roles.  Meryl Streep is great, and Oscar Winner Colleen Atwood deserves another for the amazing costume and makeup.

witch and rapunzelJohnny Depp was actually very good as the Wolf.  It is the best I’ve seen him in since Finding Neverland.  It is another fairytale like creature but in small doses I didn’t mind it (I’m so sick of Johnny Depp/Tim Burton pairing).  He’s only in the movie for 2 or 3 brief scenes but he does them very well.

wolf and red ridingAnna Kendrick is also good as a very modern version of Cinderella. She can’t decide whether she wants to be a princess or not which is a clever take on the story.

cinderellaChris Pine and Billy Magnusson are also hilarious as the two princes’ singing the play’s best song Agony.princes

Like I said if the movie had ended at 1 and half hour in I would have been thrilled with it.  It’s a tacked on 2nd act in the final 30-45 minutes that begins to lose me.

I don’t want to spoil anything but basically Into the Woods is a combination in one movie of Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk.

Into The Woods 2014 Cast1The new characters are The Baker and The Baker’s Wife (Emily Blunt and James Drenton) who get told by The Witch there is a curse on their family and they must bring her back 4 items from the Woods to break the curse.  Naturally each of these 4 items are a part of the 4 fairytales.

But the last third of the story that narrative is kind of abandoned and we get a bit of a disaster/fight the giant sequence where people die, are unfaithful and everything gets very serious.  It just bummed me out because we were on such a high and then ended on a semi-high.  Still good but not as excited as I was at 90 minute mark.

Oh well.  What I did like I really liked.  The look of the film is dark but with a certain cheerful spooky feel to it.  Tracy Ulman is fun as Jack’s Mother and it’s fun to see her back on screen again.

The CGI looks fine because most of it is in the dark at night and I find darkness a bit more forgiving with CGI.

Basically I really enjoyed it until that last third.  It’s a joke it got a PG rating when you have multiple characters dying, 2 being eaten, feet getting severed, characters blinded, and a woman who is unfaithful to her husband.  Stupid MPAA. If I had kids those would all be points of concern.  I mean I don’t want to be explaining to my little child why the Bakers Wife is kissing another man.  I wish they had toned that part down from the original play. I haven’t seen the play in probably 10 years so I couldn’t remember.  I just hate it when you feel like everyone in the movie is a jerk. Need someone to root for.

Well, I can’t really give much else away without spoiling it.  Just keep in mind- I liked it, except that last 1/3rd when the personalities and tone shift.

Still a definite recommendation based on the great singing, costumes, and an overall entertaining movie

Overall Grade- B

Jeremy Jahns and I are on totally the same page on this one