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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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Columban: Columban was the greatest of the Irish missionaries who worked on the European continent. As a young man who was greatly tormented by temptations of the flesh, he sought the advice of a religious woman who had lived a hermit’s life for years. He saw in her answer a call to leave the world. He went first to a monk on an island in Lough Erne, then to the great monastic seat of learning at Bangor. 
<p>After many years of seclusion and prayer, he traveled to Gaul (modern-day France) with 12 companion missionaries. They won wide respect for the rigor of their discipline, their preaching, and their commitment to charity and religious life in a time characterized by clerical laxity and civil strife. Columban established several monasteries in Europe which became centers of religion and culture. </p><p>Like all saints, he met opposition. Ultimately he had to appeal to the pope against complaints of Frankish bishops, for vindication of his orthodoxy and approval of Irish customs. He reproved the king for his licentious life, insisting that he marry. Since this threatened the power of the queen mother, Columban was deported to Ireland. His ship ran aground in a storm, and he continued his work in Europe, ultimately arriving in Italy, where he found favor with the king of the Lombards. In his last years he established the famous monastery of Bobbio, where he died. His writings include a treatise on penance and against Arianism, sermons, poetry and his monastic rule.</p> American Catholic Blog Jesus was never a careerist or a glory-monger; he did not demand to be hailed as a king or lauded as a hero. He came to live among us, to suffer with us, and to serve us from the heart. He came to teach us how to love.

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