Movie Reviews: Rango, The Adjustment Bureau, Take Me Home Tonight


RANGO.  107 mins.  PG.  Directed by Gore Verbinski.  Written by John Logan.
Rango is an odd bird among its animated brethren.  It's not Pixar or Dreamworks, but something altogether different.  Produced by Nickelodeon films and directed by Pirates of the Caribbean's Gore Verbinski, Rango is an impeccably designed, questionably scripted comedy that should appeal more to adults than the children in the audience with them.  Johnny Depp voices the title character - a pet chameleon who gets stranded in the desert on the way to Las Vegas and ends up in a classically "western" town where water is currency, and currency is in high demand.  The first hour of the movie is delightful - all the nods to Westerns are there, particularly in the bar scenes.  True, the drunken denizens are all critters, but Verbinski nails the look and tone.  The pop culture references - from Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas to Chinatown to Apocalypse Now - are fun, and the voice work is solid, particularly Depp who really has a blast in the role.  Rango starts to sag around the mid-point when all of the characters trek off in search of water.  I suspect most kids will lose interest at this point, and then just get scared when the villainous Rattlesnake Jake appears on screen toward the end.  But great action, some solid comedy bits, a unique premise, and beautiful visuals help elevate this movie above the limitations of its screenplay. *** stars.


THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU.  104 mins.  PG-13.  Written and Directed by George Nolfi.
To my surprise (and delight), The Adjustment Bureau is not the radical, mind-bending thriller that its ads make it out to be.  There's a chase or two, and some sci-fi elements to it, sure, but this is really more of a romance.  Granted, a high-concept romance where the leads are separated on screen for a good chunk of the running time, but a romance nonetheless.  The real thrills here lie in the smokin' chemistry between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt.  From the moment their characters meet in a hotel bathroom, to a chance encounter on a bus, and more, the movie soars.  Damon plays rising politician David Norris, who falls for Blunt's Elise on the eve of his concession speech, and then finds himself tangled up with a group of mysterious men (oh hell, let's just call them what they are - angels) out to control his fate.  Writer-director George Nolfi (Ocean's Twelve, The Bourne Ultimatum) has crafted a handsome, modest picture with some interesting thematic material involving love, destiny, and divine intervention.  It's not a perfect movie (magical hats - really?), but certainly more interesting than it first appears.  Let's get Damon and Blunt together on screen again - STAT!  ***1/2 stars.
TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT.  97 mins.  R.  Directed by Michael Dowse.  Written by Jackie & Jeff Filgo.
The big news about Take Me Home Tonight, an '80s-style teen comedy, is that it's old news - literally, having sat on the shelf completed since 2007.  It doesn't feel too much of a relic in that regard, but it does offer the same tired '80s riffs that we've seen a number of times lately - Hot Tub Time Machine springs immediately to mind.  Topher Grace stars as a slacker video store clerk who gets a second chance at wooing his high school crush on the eve of one giant party.  Add in a cougar, a stolen car, and lots of cocaine, and it goes without saying that all the characters are in for one wild, crazy (and, of course, life-changing) night.  Anna Faris is wasted in the sister role, and Dan Fogler (as the best friend) walks a very fine line between annoying/wacky and funny/wacky - not sure which side he ends up on.  Nice to see Parks and Recreation's Chris Pratt get some screen time though!  The movie is genial and harmless enough - easy to watch, but doesn't offer much comedy bang for the buck.  It plays like a movie trying to mimic an '80s film than one that captures the essence of the John Hughes '80s movies it so aspires to be.  This is more Can't Hardly Wait than Sixteen Candles.  More 200 Cigarettes than Pretty in Pink.  **1/2 stars.

Leave a comment