Neither Rango the mash-up movie nor Rango the lizard is particularly lovable. But there's no denying the intrigue in its combination of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
It is not self-conscious knowingness that drives Rango but rather a quirky and sincere enthusiasm for all the strange stuff that has piled up in the filmmakers' heads over the years.
A sun-baked symphony of rust and dust, Rango has a spiky, unsentimental appeal, sending out slightly risque jokes to parents while staying safely out of the danger zone for kids.
A rollicking, surreal, and existential kids' Western that worships at the altars of Sergio Leone, Hunter S. Thompson, and Chinatown, Rango drowns under the weight of discordant objectives and influences.
Every other week, it seems there is some new creation full of fantastically realized creatures engaging in eye-tricking action. The ironic effect of this... is a so-what-else-you-got state of jaded exhaustion. And then along comes Rango.
What elevates it above a cheeky romp is the skilled CGI work, not only the wealth of tactile detail lavished on the parched townsfolk but also the painterly, sand-swept vistas they call home.
Johnny Depp isn't the sort of star to blend in, so it's saying something that his turn as the world's most conspicuous chameleon in Rango is so full-bodied, you forget the actor and focus on the character.