The following post contains not just major spoilers for, but a review of, Rango (now in theaters). It also has middlin’ spoilers for a handful of Bugs Bunny cartoons, The Man Who Knew Too Little, and major spoilers for Galaxy Quest. (The point of the review is this: See Galaxy Quest instead.)

One of the important rules of the whole “Willing Suspension of Disbelief” for a great many narratives (that aren’t zany comedies, anyway) is that you follow the rules.

We, in the audience, can handle a bunny rabbit with a Flatbush accent. We can handle this bunny rabbit getting into a struggle of wills with a little person involved with organized crime pretending to be a baby. The second you have him fall in love with a normal, mute, stupid (no offense to pet rabbit companions, of course), Lepus Townsendii, you invite the audience to say “wait, what the heck is going on here?” In a universe with Bugs Bunny, the moment you introduce run-of-the-mill bunny rabbits, you have a need for a Bugs Bunny origin story. We can handle Bugs being a metaphor for the common man until we get shown “reality”.

When “Reality” enters the picture, Bugs ceases to be a metaphor for an archetype.

The archetype of the holy fool is usually a fun story. (You know, the village idiot who trips over a mound and it’s buried treasure, he falls down a well and finds a missing icon, he wanders into a castle and gives an old man a drink and heals a grievious wound.) The most recent version of this story that I’ve seen is The Man Who Knew Too Little. Now, this has always struck me as a very Russian archetype. When America gets its hands on it, there’s usually a brief argument around the writing table about “character growth” (the holy fool usually doesn’t grow as a character much, you see) and so there’s a tweak here, a tweak there, and you’ve got a brand new story: The Accidental Hero.

The Accidental Hero has a pretty decent formula. A normal, regular guy finds himself in a situation and bumbles and trips and causes a serendipitous accident that gets “the townsfolk” to say “golly! Our hero!” and, of course, the normal, regular guy likes the attention and presige and runs with it… until the moment where he gets nose to nose with a really big bad. The big bad makes the “hero” explain to the townsfolk that, no, he’s just a regular guy… the hero, broken, then has a short spiritual awakening where he realizes that he needs to be the Hero he was only pretending to be before.

Galaxy Quest did this *PERFECTLY*. Oh, my goodness, did it ever.

Which, finally, brings us to Rango.

Nobody ever says “well, the first 20 minutes of the movie were crappy but the last 70 minutes really made up for it!” The first 20 minutes are usually forgiven and folks are talking about the ending. If the last 20 minutes of a movie disappoint, however, this becomes something worth screaming about. So I want to say that I was *DELIGHTED* with the first half of this movie. I thought it was charming, funny, action-packed, and a wonderful example of the Accidental Hero genre.

It’s just that, in the second half, there are a number of things that go all pear-shaped.

In the first little bit (after a lovely moment with Ave Maria) we encounter a spiritual guide for Rango (the armadillo). There is a pretty decent speech discussing the importance of getting across to the other side. It’s a metaphor.

Which is all well and good! But remember the rules I hinted at in the first paragraph? Well, one of them is that metaphors have to remain metaphors. For example, if you have a Greek Chorus in your story, it has to be their job to yell stuff at the audience or at the main character. You can even have the main character hammer stuff out with the Greek Chorus. They can argue. What you *CAN’T* do is have the main character, oh, attack the big bad and have the Greek Chorus help. That’s not what the Greek Chorus *IS*. That’s not what it *DOES*. I suppose you could have this zany madcap story in which a Hero and his Greek Chorus goes around beating up big bads but that would, at the end of the day, be a fairly unsatisfying story that would raise more questions than it answers… much like Bugs Bunny hitting on a member of Lepus Townsendii would do.

Rango yanked me out of my willing suspension of disbelief in the third act. I can put up with themes I don’t agree with, inside-jokes that refer to previous movies made by the actors (preferable when this happens in the first scene to later scenes, of course), even the main character stealing a kiss from a woman he thinks is catatonic (creepy!), but don’t yank me out of the movie because the rules are too constraining.

All that to say: Everything that it did well was done better in Galaxy Quest (theme) or the various Pixar movies (animation). I’d suggest watching those instead if you haven’t seen them or even again if you have. Rango disappointed… which is too bad because I really, really enjoyed the first two acts.


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to


  1. I couldn’t figure out how the damn armadillo lived either. First scene he has a huge tire tread through him, next minute, popped up like an inflated balloon and doing fine. Do real armadillo’s do that?
    Also, frankly, if you’re going to have a show about an animated animal he should be either funny/witty/likable or at least cute (The movie had a preview for Hop, it was the highlight of the evening). Rango was neither. A smarmy writhing lizard with repulsive iguana/human eyes (the eyes…. they haunt me!) with a smarmy writhing personality. He’s like a mixture of all the unlikable aspects of Woody Allen. I can see why actors might like Rango; he’s essentially a shitty actor phoning in a John Wayne impersonation but why the fish would anyone else like him?

    The gratuitous eco-harping about urban water use also struck me as obnoxious. How about if, instead of Las Vegas, Rango had topped the desert hill to find his towns life-giving water being diverted to say, a strawberry/lettuce/tomato plantation in the middle of the desert full of abused illegal immigrants? If you eliminated the water subsidy for desert agricultural use then desert metros would be swimming in the stuff.

    And yes, Galaxy Quest did it a million times better and funnier. “We’ve got to get out of here before one of those things kills Ray!”

    • Metaphorical armadillos do that, which… I think I’m fine with. The problem is that metaphorical armadillos are not later allowed to participate in a scheme to liberate the water with the help of plants.

      I mean, seriously. If the plants are agents too, then the sprinklers on the golf courses are helping millions and millions and millions. Argh.

  2. As an aside, Jay. I’ve reached the end of Erfworld. It was agonizing. Is there a term out there for that feeling? Of finding an excellent online comic and rocketing along the story line loving every page and then BOOM you’ve caught up to the present and the torrent of content become a weekly droplet? For me it was like cruising down a tree lined marble boulevard in a lovely car and then *crunch* brick wall.

    Worst of all I knew it was going to happen. Fifteen pages in I said to myself “Oh balls, this is so good now so it is going to fishing suck when I catch up to the feed at the end!”

    • “George R. R. Martined”, I suppose. Maybe “Robert Jordaned”.

    • North,
      No, don’t feel bad. And there’s tons of text updates since the last comic.
      Feel bad for me. I’m waiting for a series to finish — one that was first published when I was freaking two.
      One that the author has completely forgotten how the story goes…

      Even waiting for Martin to stop being an asshole and get back to writing isn’t as bad as realizing that the story may have wandered off and been forgotten about.

      Erfworld just had “artist issues”… it’s coming back.

  3. This, right here? This is a classic example of Overthinking It.

    “But it doesn’t make sense!” Really? Whose sense? Nobody said it had to make your kind of sense.

  4. I think the “Accidental Hero” was done quite well in Legend of Basara.
    Much more about giri than about humor — but then it is Japanese.

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