Saturday, March 12, 2016

Zootopia (2016) film review

Year: 2016
Running Time: 108 minutes
Directors: Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush
Writers: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jennifer Lee, Josie Trinidad and Jim Reardon (story), Jared Bush and Phil Johnston (story and screenplay), Dan Fogelman (additional story material)
Cast: (voices) Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, J.K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer

Zootopia is distributed worldwide by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Now showing in the United States and to be released in Australia on March 17 2016.

When Disney talks, the world listens. Zootopia is completely and utterly relevant to the world in which it has been released into and so clever, witty and funny that it brings incredible enjoyment while delivering a vital message.

Zootopia is the world where animals have taken on human characteristics while still acknowledging their animalistic qualities. Meet Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin), the determined bunny who has defied all expectations and topped her class at the academy to become Zootopia's first rabbit police officer. She quickly learns that it is not as easy to bring happiness to others and make the world a better place as she thought it would be, and still has to prove herself worthy and not just a gimmick. Opportunity comes her way when she is given the chance to solve the mystery as to why certain animals in Zootopia are returning to their predatory roots and becoming savage causing havoc in their world. Judy teams up with the most unlikely of companions in sly, streetwise fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) and embarks on a dangerously intriguing quest.

Zootopia is far more than just another animated Disney film with talking animals. The world of Zootopia is an example of absolutely superb animation as a result of it's incredible attention to detail which rivals even the most professional town-planning. The production of the film required a whole metropolitan to be imagined with precision for the topic as it is ultimately the entire basis for the screenplay.

Very rarely will an animated film be released that is so complex, yet uncomplicated and enjoyable for both young and old. The screenplay for Zootopia is wonderfully written as it is enthralling and unpredictable in a style not unlike that of a detective mystery, but very much unique in it's mode of storytelling as a result of it's original, creative and likable animal characters. However, while deep and complex in so far as it's themes, Zootopia is absolutely hilarious with a brand of humour that is as unique as the film itself with it's clever humour that is derived from references to animals in everyday speech and popular culture (eg. the elephant in the room). The film is absolutely packed with pop culture references which bring with them many laughs, such as the unmistakable replica of The Godfather wedding, Guns n' Rodents and the bootleg Disney DVD's. Many of these references will go straight over the heads of younger audience members while they will be incredibly amusing to adults.

Disney animation has always had a flair for creating talking animal dominated films in which the animals deal with situations and problems not unlike humans. Zootopia perhaps does this greater than any past Disney film, as it deals with not just human emotions, but also human politics. The film says a great deal about the way in which humans socialize and stereotype in today's society. Zootopia opens with young Judy Hopps explaining how things were at the beginning of time and how animals were divided based on their genetics. Zootopia is a place where all animals live together in harmony and those who were predators are now accepted happily in society. Yet, the memory of the way things once were remain and make it easy for people to rationalize when things go wrong by accepting that that is just the way the predatory animals were created. The different animals in Zootopia are subject to stereotyping, such as the sly fox, dumb bunny, cheating weasel, slow sloth and savage, dangerous predators including tigers, panthers and lions. They are stereotyped in the same way that humans are based on nationality, religion, looks, occupation and so on. These stereotypes are mostly ignored when everything is in balance and the world is in harmony, but when that balance is disturbed that is when a tumultuous past is revisited and stereotypes are applied.

It is out of these memories and stereotypes that fear is born, something that there is a great deal of in this world at the present time. This fear is implanted into society by only a small number of people who understand that fear is the greatest weapon in disrupting harmony and forcing people to acknowledge differences that turn people against each other. Watching the animals fear strangers on the train and erupt into angry riots against one another in Zootopia is disturbingly similar to what is taking place in the world right now. This is what people both young and old need to see in a cinematic experience right now to make them realise what is really happening, as the way society is reacting and why is represented in a simple, yet effective fashion.

The truth hits home hard in Zootopia, but the most wonderful thing is that despite these harsh and dark themes it is still an incredible amount of fun and a truly enjoyable experience. It is it's brilliant sense of humour that reminds one that there is always light in the bad times, and the cast of likable characters that keep the film light on the surface. Again, younger audiences won't understand the full extent of the underlying themes of Zootopia, but will resort to the classic theme of accepting differences which is still a very positive conclusion.


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