We went back for seconds.
It is unusual for me to see a movie twice before it opens, but in this case, I took Toshi, my five-year-old, with me to see the film before I went to the press junket, and we had a great evening out with it. With my younger son, Allen, he’s never seen a film in the theater, and he turns three years old today, March 4. Ever since that first “Rango” trailer showed up online and he demanded to see it about 300 times in a weekend, I realized that we would have to make this his first film in the theater. Then I started hearing word that the film was “too weird” for littler kids, and I decided I needed to check it out first, with Toshi along as a sort of barometer.
It’s funny, because Toshi is interested in monsters, so of course his little brother is interested in monsters, too. If Toshi watches a Godzilla film, then Allen has to see the Godzilla film. If Toshi gets to see the Lon Chaney “Wolf Man,” then Allen gets to see it. And watching the two of them during these films, Toshi is the one who has to hide his eyes and who gets visibly nervous and who asked me to turn off “Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein” 45 minutes in because it was too scary. Allen never averts his eyes. He never flinches. He leans in closer during the scary parts, and several times, I’ve seen him smack Toshi and yell “LOOK!” because Toshi was missing something cool.
So I used Toshi as a gauge for whether or not the movie would be too scary, and sure enough, there were a few parts that got Toshi a little tense. There’s a great freaky chase sequence involving what look like deformed hillbilly moles riding bats with machine guns strapped to their backs, and there’s a bad guy named Rattlesnake Jake (voiced by the great Bill Nighy) who repeatedly threatens to take people to Hell, and who is just scary enough that you think he might mean it. On the way home from us seeing the film, Toshi and I talked about whether or not Allen would be able to enjoy the film, and Toshi summed it up perfectly: “Dad, Allen likes crazy monsters. I think he might be a crazy monster.”
When you’re thinking about taking your own kids, it’s not a matter of how old they are, but how much they enjoy walking that fine line of “scary” and “fun.” This is not a scary movie, but the imagery can be so oddball at times that it may rattle the more sensitive viewers. My wife, for example, never got past the designs.
When I sat down with Verbinski for the first time since post-production on “Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End,” we had a quick but oddly relaxed conversation. Verbinski is a guy I like a lot, who always seems to me to be in stealth mode. He’s very soft-spoken, very unassuming, but there’s this great big crazy clockwork brain ticking away behind those eyes, and when you realize he’s carrying something like “Rango” around in there, you realize it’s all a front. Gore Verbinski, like Allen, might be a crazy monster, and it is audiences who benefit from that. My interview with him is embedded at the top of this story.
Meanwhile, I also sat down to speak with Isla Fisher, who plays the visually unnerving Beans, the film’s love interest. She’s one of those comic performers who I feel like hasn’t really been used right yet in film. We’ve seen hints of it in some of her work, but one of these days, someone’s going to match her up with the right material, and we’re going to realize how much we’ve been missing so far. You can see that interview below: