Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Zootopia (2016)

Judy Hopps lives in a world of anthropomorphic animals.  She likes to think that she can be whatever she wants.   If predator and prey can live side by side, then surely anything is possible.  She wants to be a police officer, which is something no rabbit has ever done.  (This despite Mayor Lionheart’s diversity agenda.)  So, she sets off to the police academy and does it.

She graduates top of her class only to be assigned to parking enforcement.  Not satisfied with being the token bunny, she offers to solve the case of a missing otter.  Before Captain Bogo can fire her, the wife of the missing otter thanks Judy with the assistant mayor not far behind.  The captain gives her 48 hours to solve the case.  If not, she resigns.

I remember hearing how the movie was an analogy to our own world   We like to think of ourselves as being evolved.  We have art and electricity and language.  We can use tools.  We’ve even been to the moon, even if it was for the briefest of visits.  What makes us different from the rest of the animal kingdom?  We claim we can get along, but that doesn’t always mean we do get along.

Many of these issues come up in the movie.  Zootopia seems to be a great city on the surface.  There are trains that can accommodate animals of all sizes.  There are different districts for different ecosystems, but animals have physical mobility.  They can go anywhere they want.  Things are different once you get to know the animals.  The assistant mayor is a sheep that the mayor pushes around.  Judy enlists the help of Nick Wilde, a red fox who doesn’t see the point in being anything other than a hustler.  Yes, it’s possible, in theory, to be whatever you want, but real life will beat you into submission.

The movie is able to walk a fine line, though.  Judy is enthusiastic, but not to the point of being annoying.  Nick is jaded, but not to the point of being a downer.  They make a perfect odd couple.  They work together and even might consider themselves friends, despite opposing viewpoints.  Some of the points the movie makes are pretty blunt.  (Judy points out that it’s only acceptable to call another rabbit cute if you’re a fellow rabbit.)  Some of it is more subtle.  Judy is told by the assistant mayor that prey have to stick together.

We need Judy to be enthusiastic.  We need her to hit the brick wall with full force.  Early in the movie, Judy defends a sheep against a fox that stole the sheep’s tickets from a fair.  Judy gets some scratches, but she also gets the tickets back.  On the other hand, she does need Nick to pull her back a little bit.  He brings her to a DMV office run by sloths.  (The scene was less annoying than it could have been.)  Judy’s energy is evenly matched by the sloths’ lethargy, which is something Nick is all too happy to make evident.

The movie was entertaining without being preachy.  It was on a level that most children would understand and that parents could enjoy and even use as reference when children are exposed to similar situations.  Judy is given fox repellant by her parents because, well, you know…foxes.  Even after Judy has known Nick for a while, she still reaches for the repellant.  I’d say that overall, the movie is safe for children.  There are a few potentially scary scenes.  However, you are probably going to have a conversation afterwards.

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