Review: Rango Blu-ray

Rango Blu-ray boxSTUDIO: Paramount | DIRECTOR: Gore Verbinski | VOICE CAST: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Ned Beatty, Ray Winstone, Abigail Breslin, Bill Nighy, Timothy Olyphant
7/15/11 | PRICE: Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack $39.99, DVD $29.99|
commentary, extended version, featurette, 10 deleted scenes; BD adds featurettes, picture-in-picture storyboards, interactive tour, digital copy
PG | 107 min. | Animated western | 2.40:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1/Dolby Digital 5.1 | English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall


A chamleon who's coming into his own leads the charge in Rango.

Another computer-animation feature film to hit the bullseye in its appeal to both kids and their parents, Rango offers viewers of all ages a lot of colorful, clever and genuinely weird fun.

Sure, we’re used to seeing CGI movies “starring” strange animals and inanimate objects, but this spaghetti western-styled tale of an ordinary chameleon who comes to call himself Rango (appealingly realized by The Tourist‘s Johnny Depp) who bounces out of his terrarium home and ends up in the Wild West town named Dirt is, well, really out there.

Like many of the movies and tropes that it sends up (everything from High Noon, Chinatown and the films of Sergio Leon to Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the cult movies of Alejandro Jodorowsky), Rango is filled with strange characters and bizarre situations that are at once humorous and unbalanced.

But beneath the family film’s distinct outward appearance is a solid story that hits all the right emotions, and the steady pace doesn’t allow one to linger on an occasional dry patch.

The high-definition image quality of Rango is simply outstanding — the finest I’ve ever seen on a Blu-ray edition of a computer-animated film. The details on the denizens of Dirt are impeccable, from Jake the Snake’s undulating scales to the creases in Rango’s ever-changing, sometimes-molting skin. Ditto for the background environments and Western-styled lighting. It all comes off with the photo-realistic but still surrealistically dazzling effect that the filmmakers were aiming for.

The audio tracks, while excellent, aren’t as crystalline as the visuals. There’s a lot going on here — Hans Zimmer’s score (with an occasional song by Los Lobos thrown in), myriad sound effects and, of course, dialog — and the separation between them all is strong but not flawless.

The Blu-ray’s extras package is generous, led by an very informative and enthusiastic commentary by Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean), production designer Mark “Crash” McCreery, animation director Hal Hickel and visual effects supervisor Tim Alexander.

Also lively is the 45-minute featurette, Breaking the Rules: Making Animation History, revealing all the passion the filmmakers and army of animators at Industrial Light & Magic brought to the project as they went through the painstaking process of putting the film together over a five-year gestation period.

Other special features are an interactive tour of the town of Dirt and its inhabitants and 10 deleted scenes, including an alternate ending set to the Beach Boy’s “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” that’s even more joyous than the one seen in the theatrical version.


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.