Rango is not the movie you are expecting. Is it a cartoon? Yes. Is it a Western? Yes. Is it populated by cute animals voiced by celebrities like Johnny Depp and Abigail Breslin? Yes. But it is so much more.
Rango is an existential Western. It is a film that deconstructs reality and questions existence. There are shoot outs and sheriffs, yes, but there are also dream sequences and self-reflexive dramatic irony. This cartoon questions and criticizes religion, government, economics, and celebrity culture. It’s fantastically weird and fantastically fun.
The plot is simple enough – Dirt City is running out of water. Rango shows up in town, impresses the locals, and is made their sheriff. When the last bit of water disappears, Rango leads the towns…um…rodents(?) on a search for the thieves. Madcap mayhem follows.
Woven throughout this narrative though is a search for place. Rango is displaced as the story begins, and as he settles into the town, the town is unsettled in its faith in its religion, its government, its economy, and even, ultimately, in Rango himself. No one has ground to stand on in this story. Slowly, they find it though, and they find it, as in many current films, in each other.
In Rango, the only hope offered is the hope of community. That’s a laudable hope, better than any of the things the film tears down (religion, governments, economics, and celebrity). I appreciate Rango‘s claim. I do wonder however what that community is gathered around. Can a community form around each other? Does there need to be something other than the community itself at the center?
I think so. I think that a community focused in on itself becomes cut off from the rest of the world. A group of people needs something to turn it outside lest it implode. A community needs a better hope. Perhaps that is the twist of Rango. Having deconstructed all other hopes, the animals are without hope and so hold on to one another to weather the storm of their displacement.
Oops. DId you see what happened there? I slipped off into more existential waters. Just like Rango. It happens quick.
But I’m off topic. Rango is a very fun film. I recommend it wholeheartedly. Clint Eastwood even makes an appearance at one point. Have fun.