Here is my latest Diagnosis: Movies column as published on page 9 in the March 18, 2011 Town Times:
The smell of popcorn and candy welcomed us as I entered the theater hand in hand with my five-year-old son. This would be our first one-on-one outing, the first of many to come, since his baby sister was born in November. Needless to say, it was a very special day for both of us, and one we enjoyed it to the hilt with our bottles of water and bags of M&Ms. My son and I aren’t anything if not chocoholics.
We are also fans of Johnny Depp, and no, I haven’t tricked the poor lad into admiring my favorite actor. He happened to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory one day on ABC Family, and I wasn’t even the one holding the remote control! The oddity that was Willy Wonka amused him to the point that we watched the film every day for two weeks. The rest was history. Now whenever we point out Johnny Depp in another movie (Alice in Wonderland, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Corpse Bride) and ask who he is, his answer is always a resounding “Willy Wonka!” That said, what better first date for us to have than to see Willy Wonka as Rango.
Rango is one wily chameleon, though truth be told, we never really learn the true name of the charming reptile. The name is an alias for the charismatic pet living a superficial life in a toy terrarium. His days of play-acting (his audience is a wind-up goldfish, the torso of a Barbie doll, and a dead bug in the terrarium) are turned upside down when tragedy befalls him on a highway near the Mojave Desert, setting the little guy free under the scorching sun. The adventure truly begins when an armadillo directs him to the town of “Dirt” where he goes in search of water.
The story is ripe with metaphors and a few expected clichés, but the delivery is altogether delightful. Adults will appreciate the philosophical crisis of identity as Rango tries to make his way in a whole new world. Children will appreciate a plethora of action and silly jokes. Everyone will appreciate the brilliant animation, absolutely stunning, and not ruined by attempts to put it into 3D. The score, too, is a perfect backdrop to this feisty Western and deserves a round of applause.
I must say that certain jokes and references made me raise my brow: The mention of a prostate followed by a character putting on a latex glove? The mention of a mammogram? The repeated mentions that Rango would die – and I’ll ruin it for all of you now and say that he doesn’t die in the film, but we all will die some day. Otherwise, the film does a good job in staying child-friendly while engagingly entertaining in adults.
Yes, my son does enjoy a Johnny Depp movie or two, and this one definitely gets added to the list. I wonder what he will say the next time we ask him who our favorite actor is. His answer may no longer be “Willy Wonka” but an enthusiastic “Rango”!
Rango: 3 stethoscopes
Editorial: Dr. Tanya Feke is a physician at Middlesex Hospital Primary Care – Durham and guest columnist for the Town Times. She has been press credentialed to the LA Film Festival and continues to pursue a love of film. Diagnosis: Movies reviews are rated on a five stethoscope scale.