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Not Your Average Kids Film

Rango, the new supposedly child-friendly animated film, at first glance appears to be a coming-of-age movie about a lizard. However, after watching it, I realize that I did indeed enjoy it, but I could not pinpoint the reason why.

Johnny Depp’s character, Rango, was as appealing as they always are. In addition to sharing a voice, the lizard’s personality reeked of the brilliant and often bipolar aspects of Depp’s acting. The lizard had two distinct sides: the deranged loner who has spent his life in an aquarium with a woman’s torso and a wind-up fish, and the flyby- the-seat-of-his-pants western hero who has the guts and the ability to save the town with a single bullet.

The complex plot was a combination of good and bad. The characters were not perfect and oft en made mistakes, making the storyline appealing and ever-changing. At the same time, the plot oft en seemed to lack complete coherence, with different aspects of the movie shooting in various directions that sometimes made sense and sometimes did not. For example, Timothy Olyphant appears as an homage to Clint Eastwood as the Spirit of the West, on a golf cart with Oscars in the back. This scene was probably meant to be humorous, but for me, it was slightly confusing.

The same occurred in other scenes, including one in which an apparently dead Rango is carried to the Spirit by cockroaches and one where an awkward, all-knowing armadillo goes on a quest to “cross to the other side” of the road. This last constant reference in the movie kept me more amused than mystified: rather than seeing it as a growing up, religious experience, all I kept picturing was the chicken trying to cross the road.

The last animated children’s movie I saw was Disney’s Tangled. I completely understand that (1.) Rango is not a Disney movie and (2.) not all children’s movies are cute and cuddly, but I did not blame the mother behind me who walked out with her two young children mid-way through the fi lm. The characters, though interesting, were not the most child-friendly in appearance; one bird even had an arrow through one eye socket that came out of the back of his head. Curse words appeared occasionally in the film, and the violent scenes, particularly those involving the rattlesnake, had me jumping in my seat. Although this movie may not deserve a PG-13 rating, I am not sure it should continue to be called an animated children’s movie by critics.

Is Rango worth seeing? Yes. I might recommend waiting until it is out of theaters, but it was an interesting western parody that kept me laughing most of the way through. Bringing small children may not be the best option, though. Instead of taking them on this adventure, just remind them to, in Rango’s words, “stay in school, eat your veggies, and burn all the books that ain’t Shakespeare.”

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