As a general rule, animated films are family films. The cost of animation is simply too high for a studio to invest in anything other than the lowest-common denominator fare. It’s rare that any studio other than Pixar will craft an animated feature that not only appeals to kids, but has the wits and edginess that will also charm adults.
Rango is one of those rarities. Director Gore Verbinski skillfully blends the broad slapstick of animated creatures having goofy adventures with smart movie references, gorgeous visuals, and impressive animation.
Everything in Rango is done with a great deal of charm. There’s plenty of slapstick and a little bit of bathroom humor, but I find these aspects far less grating when they’re coupled with a desire to be strange. The script has no problem giving its characters SAT-level vocabulary or providing the love interest (Isla Fisher and Johnny Depp) with a malfunctioning defense mechanism. Verbinski makes room for the broad comedy that everyone will enjoy and a bunch of movie references and wordplay jokes that only adults will get.
Rango proves there’s room for studios other than Pixar (and to a lesser extent, DreamWorks) to make CGI animation that’s kid-tested and adult-approved. I applaud Paramount for taking a chance on an oddball premise populated by ugly-looking-but-still-adorable-in-their-own-weird-way characters.