THERE'S SOMETHING EERILY familiar about the enigmatic outsider, with dark mysterious eyes and a macho swagger. OK, so he's also a chameleon in a garish Hawaiian shirt, but Johnny Depp's incarnation as R-r-r-rango (say it with gusto) is a clear homage to The Man With No Name. Heck, this lizard even has the same air of mystery as Clint Eastwood's Western hero, often pondering existential thoughts of "Who am I?”
Actually, the bug-eyed chameleon is in fact a domesticated pet who lives in a glass bowl with a headless Barbie and a fish, until his world is shattered (his bowl falls off a truck) and he finds himself in the hostile surrounds of the dusty Mohave Desert. With an inventive mind verging on fantasist, he invents his own persona as mysterious hero. Hooking up with a lizard called Beans (voiced by Isla Fisher), Rango is escorted to a drought-afflicted town, aptly called Dirt, whose water supply has mysteriously run dry and he finds himself the potential saviour.
With a chorus of gravel-voiced Mariachi owls, singing of Rango's predicted demise, this is a quirky, off beat drama that will entertain parents with its references to Sergio Leone's movies (plenty of mean-eyed critters in long leather coats, poignant silences punctuated only by the creaking of the saloon sign, balls of tumbleweed sweeping over bleak terrain) though it may be more of an acquired taste for some young audiences. At our viewing, a group of seven-year-old girls walked out in disgust (“It's rubbish”), while a gleeful six-year-old boy found the copious amount of gunslinging “Cool”. His 15-year-old sister, meanwhile, summed it up thus: “Weird.” She's right, but it's rather wonderful and refreshingly different, too.