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Back in 2008, I learned of a Pixar movie in development called "Newt," which was expected to be out in 2011, I guess. Years passed, and nothing more was ever heard of it, but I always wondered what had become of the project. Well, in 2011 this movie came out (made by Nickelodeon and a few other companies, not Pixar, and distributed by Paramount). I didn't get to see it at the time, but I did want to. And I suppose at some point I may have wondered if it had any connection to "Newt," whether it had developed out of that project or whether that project had been cancelled because of this one, or what. Well, in September 2015 I happened to be looking at YouTube, and saw a suggested video with the title What Happened to Pixar's Newt?, and since that's a question I'd wondered about over the years, I had to watch it. And it was pretty good. It did indeed mention Rango, as well as Rio, another 2011 movie (from Blue Sky Studios and Fox), which I also wanted to see, but hadn't yet. So... not long after seeing the YouTube video, I was in Walmart, and saw a really cheap "Rango" DVD, and decided it was time for me to finally get that. (I also considered getting "Rio," which wasn't quite as cheap, but still pretty cheap. I didn't, but maybe I will in the near future. We'll see.) Anyway... that's my story. I waited a few days after I bought it, so I could watch it on Saturday night (since Saturday is the official best day for watching animated things). I still think it's a shame we'll never get to see "Newt," but... there'll always be more Pixar movies, and more animated movies from all kinds of studios, so I reckon it's okay that one slipped through the cracks.
It begins with a an unnamed chameleon doing some amateur acting. He seems pretty good, but... it's also kind of sad, because he has no one to act with. (I mean, besides inanimate objects, but he uses them to good effect.) And then, by an ironic twist of fate, he finds himself stranded in the desert. He soon meets an armadillo (Alfred Molina) that should be roadkill, but is somehow still alive. And before long, the armadillo, who is on some kind of quest, gives the chameleon advice that will set him on his own quest. The chameleon is just looking for water, and the armadillo tells him that to find water, he must first find dirt. (The armadillo is big into metaphors.) The chameleon sets off on his own, and is soon attacked by a hawk, which he barely manages to evade. The next morning, he meets a female desert iguana named Beans (Isla Fisher), who gives him a ride to a town... which is called Dirt. I should mention, the movie seems to be set in the present, but Dirt seems to be a relic of the Old West, so from this point on, the movie really becomes a western.
After wandering into a saloon looking for water, the chameleon falls back on his acting skills, pretending to be a mysterious gunslinger. He assumes the name "Rango," and tells some tall tales to earn the respect of the townsfolk. There are a number of characters of some importance, the most important being the mayor of Dirt (voiced by Ned Beatty; Wikipedia calls him Tortoise John, but I never heard his name in the film, and the character referred to himself as a turtle). There's also a young mouse (voiced by Abigail Breslin; Wikipedia calls her Priscilla, but I don't recall hearing her name) who I thought was a pretty good character. And an old mouse named Spoons. And a bank manager named Merrimack (Stephen Root). And various others. Anyway... the mayor ends up making Rango the sheriff of Dirt. And... the town is nearly out of water, which has been disappearing under mysterious circumstances. So Rango has to try to figure that out. And then what little water is left is stolen from the bank, so Rango forms a posse to track down the thieves. And he makes a raven his deputy. (Wikipedia calls the raven Wounded Bird, yet another name I never heard in the movie. But he's basically a Native American, who's obviously more skilled than Rango. And Rango makes some stereotypical assumptions about him that are quickly turned on their head, to comic effect.) But there's something larger going on than he suspects at first. However, in spite of the fact that he's really just pretending to be a lawman (and despite his comical bungling), he turns out to have some good instincts as a detective, and eventually tumbles to the truth. Things get worse when the real mastermind behind the town's problems calls in a terrifyingly badass rattlesnake named Jake (Bill Nighy) to run Rango out of town.
Of course, Rango later realizes he has a destiny to fulfill. (This epiphany comes courtesy of the "spirit of the west," who may just be a vision, but he bears a striking resemblance to The Man With No Name. And after that vision, Rango again meets the armadillo (who at this point begins to remind me of a Mystic from The Dark Crystal). So, Rango returns to Dirt, this time with a plan. And I guess that's all I want to say about the plot, except that it's safe to assume there's a happy ending.
Anyway... the movie has some pretty awesome animation, and it's just... astoundingly clever and funny. Great voice acting all around. Great story. And I don't know what else to tell you. Oh! I almost forgot to mention a quartet of mariachis, one of whom serves as a narrator for the movie (but I soon figured out that he's not particularly reliable). Anyway, it's just a really fun movie. (Whatever Pixar had planned for "Newt," I can't imagine it would have been any better than this.)