Saturday, March 05, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Zootopia (2016)

Disney's latest animated film, ZOOTOPIA (2016), is an enjoyable and creative tale set in a unique animal world.

In ZOOTOPIA animals have become "civilized." Not only are there no longer predators and prey, the animals all wear clothes and have one of the trailers points out, they are "anthropomorphic." Think of the characters in Disney's animated ROBIN HOOD (1973) and you've got the idea.

Incidentally, I didn't really care for the teaser trailer where the anthropomorphic animals were was the hilarious trailer with the sloth working at the DMV that sold me on seeing it!

Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) has wanted to be a police officer her entire life, and she works hard to overcome issues created by her small size, graduating at the top of her class at the academy. She's hired on to the Zootopia police force as part of a diversity initiative by the mayor (J.K. Simmons), but the police chief (Idris Elba) is skeptical and assigns Judy to write parking tickets.

Judy finally gets the chance to work on a case involving a missing animal, one of 14 who have recently disappeared from the city. The chief gives Judy just 48 hours...or else! break the case. It's a daunting task, but Judy finds an unexpected ally in Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a fox who is also something of a con artist.

The movie is bursting with visually creative scenes, such as the different "lands" in Zootopia, including wintry Tundra Town and a rainforest. THE ART OF ZOOTOPIA, due out this week, has gone into my Amazon cart!

Much of the humor, such as a very funny extended riff on THE GODFATHER (1972), will sail right over young children's heads, but that's part of what makes the movie good, it's intelligent and there's something for everyone. There are even Disney jokes, such as a character exclaiming "Let it go!" and I loved the character selling bootleg "animal" movies which were inspired by Disney films such as TANGLED (2010).

I also particularly appreciated the bits about pop star Gazelle (Shakira), including the imaginatively designed concert during the end credits.

The movie is simultaneously set in an animal world and very of this current era. Some of the jokes about things like cell phone apps were quite good, but I also wondered if they would "date" the film years from now, if an animated film starring animals can be dated!...or maybe they'll simply provide an interesting look at what life was like in 2016 or thereabouts.

While the film has some very nice bits of humor and a wildly creative visual style, it's not a completely perfect film and I think some reviews were just a bit overdone in their praise. The main issue for me was that the film's commentary on bias and bullying was too heavy-handed. Rebecca Keegan of the Los Angeles Times said the film had a "subtle examination of bias." Subtle? They laid it on with a trowel! I get it, I get it, everyone should have equal opportunities and bullying is bad. The movie started to feel that it was a little too focused on an overt message agenda rather than entertainment.

The movie also left me with questions which may be forever unanswered...for instance, Mr. and Mrs. Hopps (Bonnie Hunt and Don Lake) were such caring and involved parents, did they also provide that kind of parenting for Judy's 275 or so siblings? And if so, how?

Additional voices are provided by Tommy Chong, Kristen Bell, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk, Jenny Slate, and Nate Torrence.

ZOOTOPIA was directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore. The good musical score was by Michael Giacchino (THE INCREDIBLES). It runs 108 well-paced minutes.

Parental Advisory: ZOOTOPIA is rated PG for "some thematic elements, rude humor and action." That seems about right as there are a few scary moments which could trouble little ones. (A postscript, I'll never understand the desire to put bathroom humor in these kinds of movies, although it was less offensive here than even in FROZEN.)

All in all, ZOOTOPIA is an enjoyable film which entertains and is worth seeing.

For more on ZOOTOPIA, please visit reviews by Gary Goldstein of the L.A. Times and Leonard Maltin.


Blogger DKoren said...

That sloth trailer was one of the best and funniest trailers I've ever seen. Then, when I saw another trailer for this film that gave away more of the plot, I was so disappointed. I'm not sure what I honestly expected, but I think that one scene was just so perfect and priceless, that nothing else could ever measure up. We'll be going to see this film, probably next weekend, as my nephew really wants to see it, of course. I'll come back and re-read this review after I've seen it myself!

8:33 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Wasn't that trailer priceless, Deb? It completely changed my attitude about seeing the film, because it was truly funny, and it developed so beautifully as it played out.

It's definitely the best scene in the film, but the movie is still worth seeing, even with the (mild) criticisms I had. I'd love to know what you think!

Best wishes,

6:14 PM  
Blogger Irene said...

I watched the preview they had at Bugs Life Theater in DCA and nearly fell out of my chair laughing at the sloth scene. It too has sold me on wanting to see this film which I plan to do tomorrow or Wednesday. My daughter and boyfriend saw it Saturday night and they liked it but she also remarked how heavy handed they were on the "message" and at one point she felt it turned rather dark. She won't tell me what she means so that it won't be spoiled and she wants to know what I think. I am glad that another Disney animated feature has finally bested Frozen in the box office take! For me Disney has ruined Frozen with the overkill in the Parks and their specials on TV.

9:39 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Irene,

Good to hear from you! I'd love to know what you think of it. I'm interesting to know your daughter had a similar impression regarding the film's messaging.

Best wishes,

11:16 AM  
Blogger Irene said...

Saw it today at the new Cinemark Theater in Downey (on the site of the old Space Shuttle facility and then a movie production studio that had an actual street built behind it for filming - we could see it from the parking structure at Kaiser.) That whole area is going to be more shopping and eating establishments to go along with The Downey Landing shopping area that was built just North of this new site a few years ago. The new theater is wonderful. Tuesdays are discount days and the seats are all soft leather plush and they recline. I think I've found my new go to theater, especially on Tuesdays!

Regarding Zootopia - yes, the message was certainly loud and clear and your remark that they laid it on with a trowel is spot on. I also agreed with my daughter that there were several dark moments in the movie. I think most kids now days could probably handle it but some who are quite young, maybe not. Overall I did enjoy the movie and the animation. It was fun to pick out and pick up on some of the things that were geared to our adult sense of humor. I think it's something I would like to watch on DVD later and do some stopping of the frames so I could read signs and the titles of those bootlegged DVD's :)

3:08 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Irene!

Wow, that Downey center sounds nice!

Many thanks for taking time to drop by again and share your thoughts on the movie. Sounds like we were pretty much in agreement! While I haven't felt a need to own some recent Disney cartoons such as WRECK-IT RALPH (2012) and BIG HERO 6 (2014), I did like ZOOTOPIA enough that I plan to add it to my Disney DVD library when it comes out. Like you, I'd like to do a little freeze framing! I suspect there were many little tributes and fun things I didn't notice on the first go-around.

Best wishes,

4:15 PM  
Blogger Joel Williams said...

I saw this film the other night and my thoughts align with yours. A great film, a little heavy-handed on the PC commentary. We laughed so loud during the DMV scene. Some really funny moments in the film.

5:10 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Joel,

Thanks so much for stopping by and adding your take on the film to the conversation! Glad you read your thoughts and so glad you enjoyed it as well. That DMV scene will go down in history as a Disney classic!

Best wishes,

5:13 PM  
Blogger Cosplasyky UK said...

Thanks for your sharing Because of busy job, I have not saw the movie yet,but i have planned
to get the tickets in this weekends , just so excited, thousands of reviews on blog for the film, well done, Disney.

1:36 AM  

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