Gore Verbinski, 2011 (8.8*)
Academy Award, Best Animated Film
I loved this trippy, clever, irreverent film! You know you’re into something heady when a family's pet chameleon character, hilariously voiced by Johnny Depp, falls off the family car on a highway, and gets blown by traffic smack into the windshield of the convertible driven by Hunter Thompson with Dr. Gonzo in the back, and Hunter and the lizard are wearing the same shirt ! That’s an indicator right there that this film may be a little induced by altered states.
Director Gore Verbinski directed the Pirates of the Caribbean series, and once again he seems to have fun directing this wacky stuff.
After falling off the car, he meets various desert dwelling critters that give him advice, with Alfred Molina as an armadillo telling him he needs to find the town of Dirt, out there somewhere. When he does, it’s inhabited by an odd assortment of western dressing animals. He meets a snotty girl, tho tells him, after mutual insults, "strangers don’t last long here", but when he discovers the town needs a sheriff and a hero, he volunteers, being lost and having little choice. He picks up his name in a bar, but I won’t spoil how he gets it, it’s mostly visual.
Much of this film is like that, references to classic westerns like A Fistful of Dollars, High Noon, even the later Quick and the Dead. There are also scenes paying homage to Chinatown and Apocalypse Now, and likely others that escaped me.
Ned Beatty gives his best John Huston (a la Chinatown) voice, as the mayor, who may or may not be involved in a plot involving the town’s water supply. British actor Bill Nighy is a dead ringer for the voice of Jack Palance as the villain Rattlesnake Jake. The plot is eerily similar to that of Chinatown, a parched town needs water, it never rains, and for some reason the town’s supply faucet has gone dry, spewing out mud and no liquid, so everyone is about to die of thirst like the crops already have.
Depp is perfect for this, delivering lines like "and stay out of my peripheral vision", and "we should follow the pipe to it’s hydraulic origin, capture the criminals and solve this aquatic conundrum".
If you like classic westerns, as well as Depp’s irreverent, inebriated style, this will be right up your alley. Perhaps more enjoyable for adults than kids, it’s still a G-rated comedy that the entire family can watch together with many guffaws – though I’m sure the kids will often ask “what did he say?”, just like the background characters do.
There’s an uncanny scene by Tim Oliphant as the voice of Clint Eastwood, delivering the film’s best line.
Depp: “The Spirit of the West. Hey, is this heaven?”
Spirit of the West (as Eastwood): “if it was, we’d be sharing Pop-tarts with Kim Novak.”
I’m sure all the kids are asking, who’s Kim Novak? Well, she and Clint Eastwood are 60’s stars that both live in Carmel, California now – that should clear that up somewhat, and of course, Pop-tarts imply breakfast, which insinuates.. er, the hokey-pokey – that’s what it’s all about!