Sunday, March 06, 2016


My brother posted Friday night about seeing this in a theater with about six other people, all adults, so let me say this: I saw it in a theater packed with families and small children the way you're supposed to.

Seriously, though, I'm kind of surprised they managed to find a sparsely-attended show; I got to the 3pm one I went to at 2:30 and there were only scattered singles available (Assembly Row is a place with assigned seating) and heard that it was much the same at the 4pm Imax show already. Kids and families seem to be really enthusiastic about this, which kind of surprises me, as I didn't get much of an impression about people being hugely excited about it, although maybe hearing people with and without kids repeating the sloth bit from the trailer should have tipped me off. It looks like it's doing well enough that maybe the Imax places are having second thoughts about bumping it for 10 Cloverfield Lane next week, which looks like it won't have nearly as much monster as its cousin.

Anyway, one thing I did notice in the relativley low-key advertising leading up to it is that the Disney Feature Animation label seems to mean a lot less these days. Maybe I'm not hanging around the right places on the Internet anymore, but it seems like you never hear of a new one of these enumerated the way you used to (as in, Snow White was #1, Aladdin was #32, etc.). It's probably healthy that they're not saddled with the responsibility of being the Next Disney Animated Classic anymore - I don't know if something like Zootopia gets made rather than something trying harder to be timeless if that's the case - but I don't know that Disney on its own is necessarily considered a benchmark for quality animation any more. Pixar seems to be the gold standard, and they've earned it, but Disney seems to be roughly equal with DreamWorks now, a notch or two above Blue Sky and Illumination, and probably only ahead of Laika because those guys haven't ramped up to one movie per year.

It's cool, though - unlike when everyone was trying to have the equivalent of Disney's Feature Animation department back in the 1990s, this seems to have happened fairly organicallly. And, who knows, if there enough things as good as Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, and Zootopia made, maybe we weon't hae to think about the Disney legacy being handed over to Pixar or DreamWorks, but just having a down period.

As much as I like this movie, I do think that it's kind of funny that it's the second-best animated film about a city full of animal people living together (after The Boy and the Beast), and that I found myself awfully close to typing the same sentence about understanding that it makes a certain amount of sense to downplay the different sizes of the characters as things go on despite the differences in scale being a big part of what was nifty early on that I mentioned reviewing Gods of Egypt. Neither of those are things you exactly expect to be themes, you know?


* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 5 Match 2016 in AMC Assembly Row #3 (first-run, RealdD 3D DCP)

The packed theater for Zootopia gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, Disney has stumbled upon something little girls like almost as much as Frozen. That's a fine movie, after all, but I suspect even those of us who like it the most (and only see their nieces every couple months or so) are ready for the little kids in their lives to move on. If this is the thing that does it, it will be a switch to something that is cute, clever, and funny.

Zootopia is a city in which "evolved" anthropomorphic mammals live together, having evolved beyond the need for the carnivorous ones to eat the others, although as Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Godwin) discovers on her first day as the city's first bunny-rabbit cop - where she is put on parking duty despite her being at the top of her class - that doesn't mean that everybody entirely gets along, or that there isn't a lot of prejudice to overcome. That's part of why she promises a distraught otter (voice of Octavia Spencer) that she'll find her missing husband when everyone else seems to have other priorities, though her captain (voice of Idris Elba) says if she can't do it within 48 hours, she's off the force. That means Judy will have to enlist the help of Nick Wilde (voice of Jason Bateman), a con-man with whom she has more in common than either would like to admit, even though her parents warned her about foxes above all other predators.

There is a moral to the story that the three directors and seven or so writers credited are telling, and the adults in the audience probably won't find it terrible subtle, although they should probably remind themselves that they're not exactly the movie's primary audience. Institutional a tough idea around which to build a movie for kids, in part for the reasons that adults don't really have a handle on dealing with it (it's even tougher to navigate the conflicting ideals of treating everyone as equals and acknowledging differences when there are animal jokes to be made), but also because the idea that the world might be stacked against them is something adults and family entertainment often attempt to shield them from; aside from kindness, it's aspirational - if those ideas aren't in a kid's head, maybe he or she is more likely to actually build a world without them. The filmmakers handle it pretty well, although when talking to kids about the subject afterwards, it's probably best to just stick to the broad strokes rather than try to find a one-to-one mapping for every bit of satire and also acknowledge that the need to have a story with surprises can undercut the theme a bit.

Full review on EFC.

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