Director Gore Verbinski of “Pirates of the Caribbean” fame makes his first foray into animated features with “Rango.”
He has come up with not only his best film to date, but also one of the best animated films of recent years. Opening Friday, it’s fast and funny, and with characters so freaky and lopsided, it happily demands a second viewing.
Johnny Depp voices the lead character, a chameleon with thespian tendencies who finds himself playing gunslinger in a drought-ridden town.
Abigail Breslin, 14, provides the movie’s “awww” factor: a cactus mouse named Priscilla. Even when she’s asking the doomed hero if he has any gold fillings, she’s undeniably cute.
Though the Oscar-nominated Miss Breslin (“Little Miss Sunshine”) is no stranger to animated films, she explains that making “Rango” was different.
“Usually you never meet the people you’re talking to in the movie until the premiere,” she says. But “Rango” was filmed like a play, over eight or nine days, with all the players acting and interacting together.
For example, in one scene Priscilla can be heard panting after running. “We were acting it out, so I was actually running,” she says. “I actually forgot at times that we were making an animated movie.”
Breslin filmed her part almost three years ago, so the finished film is a fresh and fun experience for her. Usually after her films premiere, Breslin never revisits them. “I have to see them so many times,” she says. “There are certain things you see and you go, ‘I can’t believe I said that.’ I want to see movies that I haven’t seen yet.”
Sometimes Breslin isn’t allowed to see the movies she has made, such as the grueling drama “Keane” from 2004, shot when she was about 7. (She still hasn’t seen it.)
But she has seen 2009’s R-rated “Zombieland,” and calls it a “really fun” movie: “I had never really seen zombie movies. I had always been a vampire person, but then I did ‘Zombieland’ and I was like, ‘zombies are actually really cool.’”
In her career, Breslin has been fortunate to meet some of her heroes, like the former child actress Margaret O’Brien, from 1944’s “Meet Me in St. Louis,” her favorite movie, as well as Meryl Streep.
But when asked about the most amazing person she ever met, she says, “Well, I met Justin Bieber the other day! I’m not going to lie — that was pretty cool!”
Starring Voices of Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone, Timothy Olyphant, Gil Birmingham
Written by John Logan
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Running time 1 hour 47 minutes