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3/5 Pitchforks

Starring Johnny Depp

Rated PG

Released: March 4

When future movie buffs look back at the early 21st century, they will most likely refer to us as the CGI generation. Movies such as “Toy Story” and “Finding Nemo” are cornerstones of childhood, and adults can’t get enough of special-effect showcases including “Spider Man” and “The Matrix.”

Our love of CGI is what Nickelodeon was banking on in the wild-west themed “Rango.” While it may have the latest technology and big name actors, “Rango” is more “Avatar” than “Toy Story” — that is, focused more on the images than the actual story.

“Rango” tells the tale of a spunky chameleon trying to find his place in the world. The chameleon (voiced by Johnny Depp), an avid thespian, is thrown away by his owners and forced to roam the desert.

The chameleon is brought to a decrepit desert town named Dirt, whose inhabitants are going through a serious drought (water being the currency for these creatures). Everyone is on edge, especially when this strange chameleon in a Hawaiian shirt appears. Quickly, the chameleon creates an identity of a gun-slinging outlaw named Rango who will help save the town from its troubles.

Depp is unequivocally an exceptional actor, but who knew the guy could also do voice-over work? Depp gives life to Rango where many others famous actors have merely shown up for animated films. Depp brings different accents, depth and an unending amount of energy to this small chameleon.

As in any kids film, there are jokes and references to keep the parents interested. Look out for everything from “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” to “The Lord Of The Rings.”

While all of this is great, the movie does not have much substance. The ending is predictable from the onset and the writers do little to add substance to the story. The characters, aside from Rango and the owl mariachi band, are mostly flat; they have a funny line or two but it’s hard to distinguish one from the other. It may be a kid’s movie, but Nickelodeon, unlike Pixar, really dumbs things down for the audience.

What the movie focuses on is the graphics. The desert scenes and backgrounds are spectacular and all of the animals and characters are animated expertly. The captivating action scenes seem just as big budget as any Michael Bay film. But it may be a sign of the times that stories just aren’t as important to us anymore.

“Sacrilege!” you cry, “It’s a kids movie, not ‘Inception!’”

While it has the makings of being that next big CGI kids film (talking animals mixed with cartoon shenanigans), “Rango” falls short.

For those of you who, like me, cherish “Toy Story” and other Pixar gems, it’s hard to place “Rango” in that same category. It has a lot of potential but does not get the attention and care it deserves. Hopefully “Rango 2” will rise to the occasion.

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