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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Rango

By
John P. McCarthy
Source: Catholic News Service


Rango, voiced by Johnny Depp, and Beans, voiced by Isla Fisher, are shown in a scene from the movie "Rango."
A mysterious stranger arrives in a remote outpost and protects desperate townsfolk from villainous elements. It's a staple setup of Westerns, both traditional and newfangled, and few iterations of the genre could be judged more novel than "Rango" (Paramount), a cartoon adventure populated by desert fauna.

Paying homage to classics such as "High Noon"—as well as to the spaghetti Westerns that put Clint Eastwood on the map in the 1960s—this comparatively edgy movie targets family audiences, yet is better suited to adults. In fact, even many of them will be put off by the script's passing, but nonetheless ill-advised, foray into religious humor.

So, once again, the marketing of a Hollywood release belies its content. In addition to anything else, centering as it does on a lonely chameleon (voiced by Johnny Depp), "Rango" would befuddle and occasionally bore children, when not scaring them.

On the plus side, in their first animated feature, the special-effects wizards at Industrial Light & Magic have fashioned a visually striking picture without using 3D technology. And although derivative, the script is clever and literate, even when resorting to toilet gags, which it does fairly often.

Reteaming with Depp, star of his "Pirates of the Caribbean" series, director Gore Verbinski puts considerable emphasis on the surreal aspects of the hero's search for an identity, particularly in dream sequences that have a psychedelic tinge.

Following a highway mishap, Rango, as the domesticated pet soon dubs himself, wanders into a Mojave Desert community that's experiencing a severe drought. A teller of tall tales, mostly because he craves social interaction, he poses as a brave gunfighter and becomes sheriff of the town of Dirt.

This parched hamlet is home to a menagerie of colorful critters native to the harsh environment. They include The Mayor, a wheelchair-bound tortoise (voiced by Ned Beatty), who appears to be hoarding water, plus the comely lizard Beans (voice of Isla Fisher), who is struggling to save her late father's ranch.

The spiritual content, though slight, is distinctly mixed and nets out in the negative column. Initially, for instance, Rango is encouraged to embark on a spiritual quest by an armadillo called Roadkill (voice of Alfred Molina).

But in a later scene—reminiscent of a revival meeting and calculated to disconcert viewers of all denominations—the townspeople are shown venerating the water-yielding "Holy Spigot." A reference to the "face of God" during this episode approaches outright blasphemy.

Nor does Rango's brief recitation of the Lord's Prayer while fearfully crossing the desert earlier on in the movie register as entirely sincere.

The film contains some fairly intense cartoon violence, brief irreverent and frequent toilet humor, occasional innuendo and sexual references, an inaudible crude term and at least one instance of crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
John P. McCarthy is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.





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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog We need do no more than we are doing at present; that is, to love divine Providence and abandon ourselves in his arms and heart.<br />—St. Padre Pio

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