CATEGORIES Family Film Guide
Directors: Gore Verbinski
Rated: PG for action and some language
Starring: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Alfred Molina, Abigail Breslin
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Common Sense Media rating: 8+
Moviefone Mama Says: One of the most unique animated films since last year's 'How to Train Your Dragon.' This tribute to Westerns is gorgeously shot, perfectly acted (oh, that Johnny Depp), and simply fantastic. It isn't your typical pre-school friendly family flick. Rango is a chameleon looking for a place to call home. He wanders around the desert town of Dirt trying to figure out who he is, where he belongs, and how to account for all the lies he's told the residents of Dirt, including the brassy, independent lizard Beans (Isla Fisher). There's a lot of philosophical musing in this movie, and it will certainly go over kids' heads. But if you have older elementary-schoolers and want to see a sophisticated animated Western, 'Rango' is a must-see.
Did You Know?: The iconic Man With No Name, who makes a cameo in Rango's desert reverie, sounds like Clint Eastwood ("If this were heaven, we'd be eating PopTarts with Kim Novak"), but the voice belongs to sound-alike Timothy Olyphant.
Parent Concerns: This movie is PG not G, and there are some violent sequences and villainous characters that may frighten younger kids. There's a predatory hawk, a killer rattlesnake, and some vengeful desert animals flying on bats. Like in any Western, there are shoot-outs and Mexican stand-offs, and epic chases. Language-wise the characters say "damn" and "hell," as well as some scary threats.
Here are three talking points to extend your moviegoing experience.
1. Who am I: Self-identity is a major theme of the movie, and Rango struggles to reconcile who he is (a pet chameleon lost in the desert) with who he wants to be (a swashbuckling hero). At first he lies about his past, but as time and the truth catch up to him, he realizes he really can be the courageous hero; it's not just an act. What other characters in movies go from "pretend" heroes to real ones in the course of a movie?
2. Good vs. Evil: You think you've worked out who the villains of the story are, but then you realize there's a master-mind that has been pulling the strings all along. Does that character act in the town's best interest? Why not? How would all the changes that character desires affect the townsfolk of Dirt? Why is Beans an integral part of the diabolical plan?
3. Smart Choices: Professor Dumbledore, wizard extraordinaire, memorably tells Harry Potter: "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." How is Rango an example of this idea? How do his decisions change as the consequences grow? Does Rango ultimately make the right choices? What other Dirt residents make good decisions? How about the Mayor's choices; what do they say about him?
Three to See: Animal Heroes
1. 'Bolt': He's not really a super-dog, he just plays one on TV, but Bolt (John Travolta) learns how to be a real-life hero in this cross-country adventure.
2. 'The Lion King': One of the greatest animated-animal movies of all time is this Disney tale about the circle of life, featuring a cub who would be king.
3. 'Lady and the Tramp': Most people just remember the doggy romance, but the fact is that the titular couple saves each other from certain death.