Can ‘Rango’ ride off with Oscars bid for Best Animated Feature?

Rango” opened Friday to excellent reviews from most of the major critics. Though there were naysayers, the notices were strong enough to turn this tale of a chameleon out on the range (voiced by Johnny Depp) into a viable Oscar contender for Best Animated Feature.

This is the first such film from Paramount since that category was created a decade ago. While animation powerhouses Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks all have releases in the coming months, “Rango” could rope an Oscars bid, especially if the category is expanded to five nominees.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the aggregate score from the top critics for “Rango” was 85 while over at MetaCritic a smaller sampling yielded a respectable 75. Those results were boosted by hosannas from the likes of A.O. Scott of the New York Times who thought, “this rambling, anarchic tale is gratifyingly fresh and eccentric. Much of the time you don’t quite know where it is going, which is high praise indeed given the slick predictability that governs most other entertainments of its kind.”

Raved Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, “‘Rango’ is some kind of a miracle: An animated comedy for smart moviegoers, wonderfully made, great to look at, wickedly satirical, and (gasp!) filmed in glorious 2-D. Its brilliant colors and startling characters spring from the screen and remind us how very, very tired we are of simpleminded little characters bouncing around dimly in 3-D.”

And Betsey Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times enthused, “In a world choked with animated films — the good, the bad and the ugly –it’s hard to be either original or great. Yet director Gore Verbinski has done both — and without 3-D — breaking the rules and new ground in the town of Dirt. In this time-bending, mind-bending, just-go-with-it fable, the story shifts from overcrowded freeways, Hawaiian shirts and modern problems to covered wagons, chaps and long-running issues of water rights, land grabs and greed. And in a genuinely funny way, it all makes sense.”

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