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rangoWhen I heard Ned Beatty as the voice of the old turtle, I sat in the theatre wondering if it would be clever to say “He went from squealing like a pig, to playing a teddy bear in Toy Story 3, to now playing a turtle. The turtle is mayor, so he’s moving up.”

I decided to drop that, until I heard two different times Beatty mentions “Deliverance” in a speech to the town of Dirt.

Dirt is a town that is having a water shortage (well, they are in the desert).

Rango is a pet lizard enjoy an easy life, until a near car accident throws his aquarium onto the street and into a new and unfamiliar situation.

There are so many movie references in this that it’s a must-see for anybody that’s a film buff. Sure, everyone will get the references to Spaghetti westerns, Apocalypse Now, Pulp Fiction, Star Wars, and Blazing Saddles. I’m guessing most will miss the High Noon, Coen brothers, and Chinatown ones (the movie actually takes lines directly from Chinatown, as the story is about corrupt government controlling the water and power, while the new sheriff in town investigates).

And most people won’t even recognize the amazing talent brought together to do the voices.

Bill Nigh as Rattlesnake Jake, Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers), Ray Winstone (always a great heavy, even in animated form), Charles Fleischer (he was Roger Rabbit), Alfred Molina as an armadillo (or road kill), and one really interesting choice – Harry Dean Stanton!

Director Gore Veribinski has given us the very overrated Pirates of the Caribbean films, and he brought Johnny Depp in to play Rango. Depp does a great job with the voices. I’m guessing at this point, he’s exhausted every weird voice he can do.

A nice tip of the hat to Depp’s character of Hunter S. Thompson pops up, too.

It’s one of many references that will go over kids heads. And that leads to my first complaint.

Various critics that are going out of their way to say this isn’t a kids movie. Well, it did get a PG rating (one girl is about to be strangled by a snake and she says “Go to hell!” Another character asks a mannequin “Are those real?” before getting slapped). For kids 12 or older, and all adults, this is a very enjoyable time at the movies.

The animation is so amazing and detailed. Sometimes you want to go see a comedy again because everyone laughed so hard you missed the next few lines. With this movie, you want to see it again to look at some of the details you may have missed in the old saloon.

There’s a scene where you see a graveyard, and Rango catches a tombstone that says “Sheriff Amos, Thursday – Sunday.” It makes you wonder how many other visuals you may have missed by looking at something else.

This movie isn’t as good as Up, but there was a scene that reminded me of it. A lizard often freezes and won’t move for a minute at a time, reminded me of the dogs that seemed to go into another world when they saw squirrels.

Not everything in this film worked. The owls that were doing the Greek chorus thing in the form of a mariachi band, was real hit-and-miss. Mostly miss.

I saw this with two adults. One loved it and claimed it was one of the best movies of the year. The other didn’t like it, although he also didn’t get many of the movie references.

This was certainly a better western than True Grit. And without it being in 3-D, you save a few bucks.

Amazing to think it still was the box officer winner the weekend it came out, corralling a cool $38 million. I’m guessing word of mouth will be strong and it’ll pass the $100 million mark in no time.

Ignore the critics that claimed the creatures were too ugly to love. Every one of them was great, including the naked mole rat trying to rob the town bank.

I’m giving it a B, and waiting to hear if Los Lobos is sued for ending the movie with a song that was a direct Dick Dale rip off.

Hey – if Huey Lewis can win a lawsuit because the Ghostbusters theme sounded like him, surely Dale would win this one.

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