‘Rango’ pays homage to Westerns’ past

These days, animated films are always compared to those of Pixar. It’s just the way it is and probably always will be.

“Rango,” though,  released by Paramount Pictures is just as good as those famous Pixar films. Maybe better, in fact.

Voiced by the likes of Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher and Ned Beatty, “Rango” is the story of a shy, articulate chameleon (Depp) going through an existential crisis. In the beginning he has no name, but after an old armadillo points him west, he stumbles upon an old-West style town called Dirt. Here he realizes he can become anyone, so the chameleon takes on a new persona—Rango, short for Durango.

Now he is an outlaw, a man on the edge who killed seven men with one bullet and takes down the hawk who terrorizes the town. Rango becomes the hero he has always wanted to be. The mayor even names him the new sheriff. There are some who question this newcomer  but others want this new hero’s help.

Among those who question him is Beans (Fisher), a poor farmer who always raises trouble in the town. The rest of the town wants Rango’s help.

The town of Dirt is running low on water and has only five days worth left until the reserve runs dry. There seems to be some odd happenings going on, however, because the mayor (Beatty), seems to have as much water as he desires.

The mayor also offers Rango some advice. “If you control the water, you control the town,” he says.

Rango takes that into account and sets off on a quest to help out Dirt. Rango and a posse of townsfolk, including Beans, head out to find the water the town so desperately needs.

One of the highlights of the film is the montage of desert shots on this voyage to find water. The sight of the posse riding along the setting desert sun or the millions of stars visible during the night time was truly breathtaking.

The animation was second to none.

Rango’s relationship with the townsfolk and Beans develops along the way, but it takes a back seat to the personal journey Rango makes. He becomes the confident hero he only pretended to be in the beginning of the film.

Toward the end, Rango meets the fabled “Spirit of the West,” a famous Spaghetti Western character who tells him to finish his journey and help those who need him.

“It’s not always about you,” the spirit said, “its about helping out those who rely on you.”

“Rango” is one of the best animated films of the recent years. The animated desert and intense action shots are breathtaking. One scene in particular looked like a direct re-enactment of the famous “Flight of the Valkyries” scene from “Apocyalpse Now.” Combine that with the plot and funny dialogue and you have one excellent film.

With homages to old Westerns and other famous films, this is a genuinely smart movie that happens to be animated. This is not an animated film just for kids, but one for any person who loves films.