Rango –The Business of Pretend – Movie Review

Rango –The Business of Pretend – Movie Review

Review by Stacey Tuttle

“This is the tale of a hero who has yet to enter his own story.”

Rango, a chameleon, lived in a fish bowl, in an RV, all alone.  His sole friend was a wind-up toy fish.  There was no adventure, no one to save, no one to see.  But Rango pretended.  He acted as if he was a hero in a great adventure…until one day he was.

It seemed a little silly at first;  Rango in his fish bowl, putting on these plays, pretending to be a great hero or a great actor without a single person to save or even to entertain.  And it seemed just as silly and possibly even delusional when later, in the middle of a real crisis, with real people (um, real critters I should say), Rango seemed to think he really was a hero that could save them all.  Ridiculous!  He had no real life experience!  Not that the townspeople (creatures) knew that; they believed his fantastical stories. 

Now, I’m not advocating here the fact that he lied to the townsfolk about his great adventures.  But I think something bigger and more significant was taking place than a chameleon starved for attention trying to impress others with his stories.  I think that all his practice and pretend had become such a part of who he was that it became real.  He became a hero in his pretend before he had a chance to enter his own story, but when he did enter his own story, he was prepared; he literally was what he pretended.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of something I learned from the great C.S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianity[1].  He talks about the importance of “dressing up” or pretending in the believer’s life. 

May I … start by putting two pictures, or two stories rather, into your minds?  One is the story you have all read called Beauty and the Beast.  The girl, you remember, had to marry a monster for some reason.  And she did.  She kissed it as if it were a man.  And then, much to her relief, it really turned into a man and all went well.  The other story is about someone who had to wear a mask: a mask which made him look much nicer than he really was.  He had to wear it for years.  And when he took it off he found his own face had grown to fit it.  He was now really beautiful.  What had begun as a disguise had become a reality.  I think both these stories may (in a fanciful way, of course) help to illustrate what I have to say in this chapter….

[The Lord’s Prayer’s] very first words are Our Father.  Do you now see what these words mean?  They mean quite frankly, that you are putting yourself in the place of a son of God.  To put it bluntly, you are dressing up as Christ.  If you like, you are pretending.  Because, of course, the moment you realize what the words mean, you realize that you are not a son of God.  You are not a being like the Son of God, whose will and interests are at one with those of the Father: you are a bundle of self-centred [sic] fears, hopes, greeds, jealousies, and self-conceit, all doomed to death.  So that, in a way, this dressing up as Christ is a piece of outrageous cheek[2].  But the odd thing is that He has ordered us to do it.

Why?  What is the good of pretending to be what you are not?  Well, even on the human level, you know, there are two kinds of pretending.  There is a bad kind, where the pretence is there instead of the real thing; as when a man pretends he is going to help you instead of really helping you. But there is also a good kind, where the pretence leads up to the real thing.  When you re not feeling particularly friendly but know you ought to be, the best thing you can do, very often, is to put on a friendly manner and behave as if you were a nicer person than you actually are.  And in a few minutes, as we have all noticed, you will be really feeling friendlier than you were.  Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as If you had it already. That is why children’s games are so important.  They are always pretending to be grownups –playing soldiers, playing shop.  But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits so that the pretence of being grown-up helps them to grow up in earnest[3].

I wonder, if Lewis were writing this today, if he might have used Rango as an example of this dressing up?  Rango seems to me to embody this kind of good pretending, the kind which leads up to the real thing.  And the thing which really impresses me about it—Rango started his pretending when no one was watching.  And he started it long before there was any thought that he might actually need the practice or the reality.  So often we do our pretending because others are watching.  And we wait to start practicing until we know there’s an eminent need for it. 

It’s like when I was a little girl practicing piano.  I didn’t practice every day—I was a procrastinator.  I waited till the day or so before lessons to practice.  In truth, I wasn’t practicing so much because I wanted to be a better piano player for my own sake.  If that was the case, I would have practiced daily.  I was practicing because I had a deadline and was about to have an audience.  I didn’t want to be embarrassed.  The problem with that though is that it takes a lot of faithful preparation and practice to truly become a better player.  I couldn’t cram those kinds of skills.  I couldn’t really fake preparation.

Rango didn’t have to fake preparation.  He was prepared.  He had been practicing day in and day out the best that he could.  He was ready and anxious for a chance to stop practicing the hero and start being the hero!  In fact, he had so fully dressed up as the hero that when the chance came to play the part in earnest, the transition was seamless, he already was that person he wanted to be.

What about you?  Are you practicing character?  Are you practicing integrity?  Are you practicing being heroic?  Are you practicing being like Christ?  Are you practicing when no one is watching so that you are ready and prepared?  Or do you only put it on when there’s an audience?

Rango pretended to be a hero…and he was.

“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”  Prov. 23:7

Questions for Discussion:

  • What personal examples can you think of when you have done the good sort of pretending, and the bad sort of pretending?
  • Do you have any examples in your own life where you have found that the pretending really did become reality? 
  • We tend to value being “real” in our culture, but sometimes that’s just an excuse for not working to improve yourself.  Do you feel that this pretending seems fake, or do you think it’s more like making what’s real a better reality?
  • Do you prepare and practice and “dress up” in private, or only where there is an audience?
  • Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”  Rango thought things in his heart which were good, noble and true and he became those things.  What kinds of things do you tink about and dream bout?  Are they the kinds of things which you would wish to become?


[1]Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. NY: HarperCollins, 1952, p187-188.

[2] I confess; I just love this phrase.  It’s one my favorites…”piece of outrageous cheek” – that’s just so Lewis! 

[3] I hate to stop there, the whole chapter, nay the whole book is worth the read (and that’s an understatement – it’s worth many, many readings), so if you haven’t read it, do yourself a favor and go get a copy!