Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Zootopia - 10 stars out of 10

Zootopia - 10 stars out of 10

There is a lot more to “Zootopia” than a bunch of anthropomorphic animals coexisting in a city.  This allegorical presentation of racism and privilege in our society portrays its themes on a level that can be easily understood by any audience member.  Some might worry that the topical content is some form of political propaganda but its message just strives to make the world a better place.  Aside from the heavy themes, this is a well-written story of unlikely friendship between a fox and a bunny.  There is creativity around every corner, from the climatized design of the city and the unique Disney take on a cop story to the separation of the animals into two different classes (predators and prey) and the endless string of movie references.  So many films rely on one-liner jokes but this film succeeds because the humor lies in the situational comedy created by the story's concept.  Whether it is a giraffe dominating at volleyball or a bunch of lemmings following each other, the movie is funny at its core.  The final result is a balance of comedy and interesting storytelling that appeals to everyone.  I saw Zootopia in a sold out theater in which 50% of the audience was under the age of eight.  This seems like a miserable situation and yet, I did not hear a peep out of those kids. They were entirely engaged from start to finish and the adults never felt like they were watching a “kid movie.”  That is the measurement of a perfect family film.  The only misbehavior in the theater came from the two women sitting in front of me trying to illegally record the movie.  Speaking of pirating movies, one of the funniest moments of the entire film comes when a sleazy character is selling bootlegged Disney DVDs, including ones that haven't been released (Meowana, Giraffic).  But no scene can compare to the sloths at the DMV.  It is one of the funniest sequences in movie history.  It even has a few really great twists!  While most of the film was balanced, there were a few exceptions, like the inclusion of too much Shakira.  The scenes with the phone app were great and it helped the editors to incorporated the theme song into the film but much of her character could have been left on the cutting room floor.  I also feel that they could have milked a little more emotion out of this friendship story, though they nailed the climactic emotional moment.  It comes out of nowhere and hits so hard that you will surely tear up.  It is one of the most emotionally charged moments in animated film history.  The voice actors also bring a lot to the table.  Jason Bateman is the perfect voice for this sly fox, Ginnifer Goodwin’s voice really fits the appearance of her character, and who can resist the inclusion of J.K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, and Idris Elba.  The animation is a visual masterpiece with the textures of its characters vividly bringing this fictional animal world to life.  The bunny fur looks so soft and enhances the cuteness of the characters (doesn't get much cuter than a fuzzy bunny from rural Bunnyburrow who aspires to become a cop and is named "Judy Hopps").  I was particularly struck by a scene where there is a badge sitting on a table and it looks too real to believe that it is animated.  The animation design is fastpaced and energetic which keeps the story moving and enhances the humor (the vermin neighborhood sequence).  The only disappointment of the night was that there was not a short before the feature!  You can't exactly hold it against this specific film but we've been spoiled with so many great shorts in recent memory that I look forward to them just as much as the feature.  I was very skeptical of “Zootopia” when I first heard its concept but Disney has managed to create another modern masterpiece that creates laughs for the entire family while embracing tough real-world themes.

[Pictured: The texture of Judy's fur is absolutely amazing]

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