Sunday, March 13, 2016

Zootopia [2016]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-II)  ChicagoTribune (3 Stars) (3 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (2 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
ChicagoTribune (K. Walsh) review (M. Zoller Seitz) review
AVClub (J. Hassenger) review  

Zootopia [2016] (directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush, screenplay Jared Bush and Phil Johnston, all of whom contributed to the story along with Jennifer Lee, Josie Trinidad, Jim Reardon and Dan Fogelman) is a quite good (if still imperfect) children's animated film about a metropolis inhabited by all kinds of mammals (though apparently iguanas, parakeets and bumble bees -- and more to the point, snakes, buzzards and roaches -- still need not apply ...) where said mammals (formerly predators and prey) have learned to live together in peace.

Yes, there are still some prejudices in the countryside where foxes and rabbits still don't really trust each other / get along.  and (it turns out) that some of these prejudices still lurk somewhat beneath the surface even in the city.  

But the basic thrust of the film is clear -- can one (especially children) imagine a world where even  the Lion (voiced by J.K. Simmons), he's the city's mayor, and the Sheep (voiced by Jenny Slate) his assistant / running mate, can work together (cf  Is. 11:6)?  Or a rabbit Judy Hopps (voiced by Jinnifer Goodwin) Zootopia's first rabbit to make it through the Police Academy to become a cop, come to work with street-"hustling" fox named Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman)?

And to the story's credit, the film-makers show us that it's not easy: Judy's lovely simple "carrot farming parents" (voiced by Don Lake and Bonnie Hunt) give Judy a can of mace-like "Fox Away" to "protect her" as she goes off to the "wild city" where she could find herself in all kinds of "danger."

And quite surprisingly a good part latter part of the film is driven by the consequences of an _inadvertent comment_ at a press conference by the otherwise happy / bubbling / optimistic Judy (remember she was a cop on a case...), where she clumsily suggests that "deep down, predators may be _biologically_ predisposed to violence" throwing the whole balance / peace of the city into chaos -- as all the city's sheep, rabbits, deer, chipmunks, gazelles, etc suddenly become newly frightened "of all the predators" in their midst.

Anyway, it's a generally fun story.  I just wish that a few non-mammals were added to the mix because in a country like ours, the message still could be mixed -- basically still allowing Viewers to leave the film with the interpretation: "Okay, white people from the non Anglo/Germanic sections of Europe are (now) okay ("we" basically hold that now ...) , but people of color still may not be ("okay") ... especially when they have customs like wearing head scarves (or turbans), grew-up liking Cumbia / Merengue or Tejano / Mariachi music or celebrate Kwanzaa, Divali or Ramadan."

Unfortunately, in a country such as ours today, we simply have to underline that inclusion means _everybody_ because otherwise there will always be people looking to keep at least one or another group "on the bubble" / "nervous" or "out" ...

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