‘Rango’ expensive, ‘ain’t got no heart’

By Sister Helena Burns, FSP | Contributor
Sunday, March 13, 2011

You may be eager to see “Rango” because of the hilarious trailer, but unfortunately, the tone of the trailer is not maintained throughout the movie. If the movie-makers had stayed with the offbeat humor of a Hawaiian shirt-wearing lizard and his trial-laden meanderings in the desert, “Rango” would have worked. Instead, Rango, the lizard (Johnny Depp), gets stuck in a tedious, episodic, cerebral Western, jampacked with rabid, non-stop, too-smart, supercilious, constantly risque dialogue that looks down on us, the audience.

The movie spins out of control like a mutant Cecil B. DeMille epic: Casts of thousands spring up from below the earth. Bats mounted with gun turrets descend from the sky. Battles. Explosions. Chases through the desert.

“Rango” is a post-Judeo-Christian, postmodern film. If you had a dollar for every time Rango says: “Who am I?” or is asked “Who are you?”, you could buy a tank of gas. It could have been a good postmodern film, if the story’s events were kept, well, smaller.

There’s a certain Buddhist or Eastern feel to the film (perhaps because Hollywood itself is getting more and more Buddhist), but it doesn’t quite follow through on it. Does “Hollywood” really think that people are shallow enough to be satisfied with “any dream,” and just believing in “something rather than nothing”?

There’s a good scene, kind of a dream or “enlightenment” sequence involving a golf cart and “The Spirit of the West” (a person). But instead of Zen-like maxims, we get some good old-fashioned, “be a man,” almost theology-of-the-body-formen instructions.

American pragmatism wins the day. However, as with many Hollywood movies, there’s still a sense that after all is said and done, there really is nothing to “believe” in. Perhaps not even ourselves, but we must act “as if” (Kant) and keep pushing that absurd rock up that hill (Camus) without really having a reason to do so.

“Rango” is a very expensive, very clever film — the smartest film in the room and knows it — but it ain’t got no heart.