Boot Heels and the Beast

Rango is a clever, offbeat animated feature from George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic that features the voice of Johnny Depp as a frustrated playwright lizard clad in a Hawaiian shirt who finds himself in the middle of an Old West satire.

He adopts the identity of Rango, the sheriff of a parched desert town whose water supply has mysteriously dried up.

Just about every cliché from old westerns that you can think of is employed here, from the sweet young thing named Miss Beans, who’s being intimidated into signing over the deed to her ranch, to the venomous arch-villain, Rattlesnake Jake, a trio of incompetent bank robbers, a wizened Gabby Hayes type, a corrupt mayor, and a Clint Eastwood-type character portraying the Spirit of the West.

The bank contains not cash, but the town of Dirt’s water supply, so it’s hard to understand how the accused robbers made off with it.

Nevertheless, sheriff Rango sets off with a rag-tag posse in pursuit of them.

Eventually, we find out that the town’s mayor is the real villain manipulating everything behind the scenes, but not before Rattlesnake Jake takes Miss Beans hostage, while he confronts our erstwhile lizard with the fact that Rango is indeed an impostor.

It’s all pretty silly, and doesn’t take itself too seriously, but that’s the beauty of Rango. The animation is a pleasure to watch, and the various animal creatures, some identifiable and some not, are pretty hilarious in their surreal Western roles.

This is one animated feature that adults will enjoy as much as their kids. Or maybe more.

Much less entertaining is Beastly, a contrived high-school drama that’s a weak derivative of the old Beauty and the Beast fairy tale.

Alex Pettyfer, recently seen in I Am Number Four, plays Kyle Kinston, the good-looking and egotistical son of a well-heeled TV anchorman.

He’s running for chair of his school’s Green Committee, not because he has any real interest in environmental matters, but because he sees the office as an adjunct to his transcript.

His road to enhanced popularity is blocked, it seems, by only one person. Mary-Kate Olsen plays Kendra, a Goth-looking blonde who defaces his campaign posters.

After he wins the election, he invites Kendra to a post-celebration dance, where he publicly humiliates her. In turn, she takes her revenge by casting a spell to turn him into the very antithesis of his tousled, Apollo-like countenance.

He emerges from the dance bald, with facial piercings and tattoo-like markings all over his body. Thus he will remain, unless he can find someone within the space of a year who will love him for who he is, not how he looks.

Our hero goes into seclusion, his education looked after through the means of a tutor thoughtfully supplied by his father in the luxury apartment he’s provided for his son. Even more considerately, the tutor is blind.

In all fairness, Kyle doesn’t look much more hideous than some of the tattooed, nose-ringed denizens of many an inner city.

Kyle begins stalking Lindy, a high-school colleague who had expressed a mild interest in him in better years. Somehow, through a confused plot narrative that involves Lindy’s addict father, they are thrown together, with Lindy holed up in his posh apartment with Kyle.

His pursuit of her ramps up, and the rest is pretty predictable in this formulaic excuse for a film.

Rango plays at the Yukon Cinema at 7:00 and 9:10 pm, with weekend matinees at 1:00 and 3:10 pm, and is rated PG for violence.

Beastly plays at the Qwanlin Cinema at 7:00 pm and 9:15 pm, and is rated PG for violence and coarse language.

Brian Eaton is a cinema buff who reviews current films and writes on other film-related topics on a regular basis.

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