Zootopia (2016)

brooke Can I just say how much I love cartoons? I love cartoons.

casey How do you feel about animals?

brooke Eh, they’re alright. Way better on screen when I can’t smell them

casey I was assuming you’d say you loved them, and I was going to respond “Well, have I got a movie for you!” So… umm…how about Zootopia?

brooke No one can resist anthropomorphized animals living in harmony (for the most part). You can’t beat this stuff, and Zootopia’s social commentary is dead on. Not to mention it’s is a great blend of fun for kids and jokes for adults (ex: car chases intermingled with Breaking Bad references).
The movie’s theme is about stereotypes, both against the usual little guys like sheep and rabbits, and against Zootopia’s predators who, some animals believe, “have violence in their DNA,” even though predators no longer eat other animals in this world. The story follows Zootopia’s first bunny officer, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), who must overcome the prejudices others hold against her because of her size while dealing with her own prejudices–she carries a can of fox repellent in her belt even as she reluctantly finds herself partnering with a civilian fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) to crack a missing animal case.

casey I don’t know if I’m convinced that Zootopia’s social commentary is as on point as it wants to be, but it’s a good movie. One one hand, it’s a typical underdog-overcoming-against-all-odds tale. Then the movie adds adds another layer of complexity midway through when events transpire that cause the city’s majority prey animal population to treat the predator minority with deep suspicion. Hopps suddenly finds herself a respected cop and an unexpected representative of a privileged majority, while Nick and other predators are treated as dangerous threats, with  direct allusions to the real-life tensions animating movements like #BlackLivesMatter. Unfortunately, I think the lesson is somewhat undermined by the structure of Zootopia’s world, where segregation between the animals is to some extent natural and sensible in ways that don’t apply to humans, and by specific plot mechanisms that literally reduce structural issues to a few bad actors, all of which are largely resolved by the movie’s end. Still the movie isn’t as overtly didactic as I’m making it sound, and its heart is in the right place. It’s very funny and a lot of fun.

brooke It mixes the big social justice ideas with a lot of the great humor that makes Disney/Pixar movies so enjoyable, and the music is catchy… Shakira as Gazelle is fantastic.
It is perhaps a little on the nose sometimes, and the exact symbolism seems to ebb and flow in ways that don’t necessarily work perfectly, but the message to the audience is clear: We’ve got to work together to fight prejudice.

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6 comments

  1. Allan Davis · April 28, 2016

    I loved Bellwether!!! Jenny Slate was perfect

    Like

    • Brooke W · April 28, 2016

      Yes! Jenny Slate was the perfect fit

      Like

  2. atthematinee · April 28, 2016

    Enjoyed this! Do you ever share your writing on any movie sites? 🙂

    Like

  3. Pingback: Finding Dory (2016) | Brooke and Casey At The Movies

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