Making the natural leap from Jack Sparrow to animated lizard, Johnny Depp inhabits the role of an anxious chameleon with all the verve and absurdity we've come to expect from the versatile actor. But with a film heavy on design and light on just about everything else, audiences for the most part will be left wondering what all the fuss is about.
Piecing together its plot, Rango (rated PG for rude humor, language, action, and smoking) references everything from The Wizard of Oz to Apocalypse Now, with much of a thin story relying too heavily on Chinatown. A lonely pet chameleon, Rango (Depp) is accidentally left behind in the desert and proceeds to cross the wide expanse of nothingness in search of water. He encounters a series of idiosyncratic characters, including a spiritual armadillo (Alfred Molina), a sweet lizard (Isla Fisher), and a suspicious tortoise (Ned Beatty). Ultimately making his way to the lawless town of Dirt, Rango launches himself into hero status by inadvertently killing a hungry hawk that preys on the town. This lands Rango the role of sheriff and sends him on a quest to find the town's lost water.
The first feature film from George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic reveals all the trappings of the modern Hollywood blockbuster. Visually, the film is impressive, but beneath the imaginative surface the story is predictable, the characters unfocused, and the overall effect just messy. Children may be disturbed by the realistic grittiness of the film's design, and adults will be bored by the aimless and unsurprising plot.