Zootopia (2016) (PG)
There's always a weird song-and-dance you have to perform when you talk about children's movies. Certainly companies could try to market something towards adults as well as kids; but when you run against something that's not quite up to par and you say as much, it can seem heartless. After all, the target audience hasn't hit puberty yet.
Yet with a movie like "Zootopia", I think Disney is finally catching on to the idea that a movie can be complicated and nuanced and that's fine. It presents a highly progressive idea concerning prejudice and lets it play out. The ending hardly solves the problem but lets both the characters and the audience realize that it starts on the micro-level. And there's nothing much smaller than a bunny in a world of giants.
Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) grows up in a small town after a treaty of some sorts. The evolutionary need for predators to eat prey has been done away with for a long time and now, the two live in peace, exemplified with their metropolis capital city that embodies the peace they have all come to acknowledge: Zootopia. Yet, as our heroine is about the find out, peace is an altruistic term that doesn't always manifest itself in the best ways.
From the first moment we see her, Judy wants to be a police officer, the first bunny to do so. Her parents are against the idea but with high ideals in mind, Judy determines that she can be anything she sets her mind to be. So she becomes a cop and moves to Zootopia where she is met with legal resistance from her chief, Bogo (Idris Elba). Determined to make the most of her situation, Judy goes above and beyond the call of duty and bumps into a friendly and charming fox named Nick (Jason Bateman).
It soon turns out that Nick may not be the fox he led Judy to believe he was; but Judy has bigger problems to deal with at the moment. Without detailing the plot too much, Judy finds herself in an investigation that may result in the loss of her job, or the loss of many other animal's lives.
"Zootopia" isn't a subtle movie when it wants us to make connections between how certain species are treated and how some people in American society view race. There is no question in my mind that the predators of the movie are supposed to be analogous of racial minorities. When Judy first meets Nick she tells him that he's very well-spoken 'for a fox' and though she doesn't automatically hate him, she still carries fox-repellent on her hip with an itchy trigger finger.
Well, that's daunting. It's hard for any movie to tackle the issue of racism and prejudice without seeming condescending or just wrong...let alone a children's movie that still has to maintain some sort of integrity with its plot.
At its core, "Zootopia" plays out like a buddy-cop movie and its cliches aren't quite so cliche. The movie is a wild ride, ferociously furry and colorful. This is a film that performs of a multiplicity of levels. The commentary is one, the characters are another, and the plot itself is the third. I do not know of any movie in recent history that managed to make something so complex look so effortless. "Zootopia" moves the plot along wickedly fast, but still takes time to let the consequences of actions (or dare I even say micro-aggressions?) sink in. It's pretty much a masterstroke of writing.
But let's not forget that it's fun. Yes, it's hilarious and thrilling.
I think I would have appreciated a little more subtlety with its commentary, but then again, the movie manages to make something completely unexpected from what could have been just a hot mess. Just see the movie, you won't regret it.
Posted by Micah Jones