This rollicking, surreal and existential kids' Western worships at the altars of Sergio Leone, Hunter S. Thompson and Chinatown and drowns under the weight of discordant objectives and influences.
With his crooked neck, bug eyes and Hawaiian shirt, reptilian Rango (Johnny Depp) is a Ralph Steadman creation come to anxious anthropomorphic life. A lizard with delusions of dramatist grandeur, Rango is stranded in a simmering Nevada desert, eventually stumbling upon the drought-plagued frontier town of Dirt.
Assuming the part of a lifetime, Rango feigns gunslinger grit and nabs himself the job of sheriff, tasked with returning water to the thirsty citizenry — a heroic mission that director Gore Verbinski and Industrial Light & Magic visualize with inventive photorealistic cartoonishness. Rango's ultimate quest is a search for the self, achievable through role-playing fiction. But Rango's overstuffed plot fails to blend its brainy pretensions with its chase-and-slapstick family-film obligations. Like Dirt's H2O supply, laughs are scarce.