Sorry, guys. Hard R.
I had a weird perspective for this movie. This was one of the movies that caught my eye because of the sheer amount of positive reviews surrounding its release. I was extremely excited to see it. I love music mockumentaries, especially films like Christopher Guest's This is Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind. One week passes...and it is out of theaters.
Maybe it was a limited release or maybe I'm just a crazy person, but I put this down on a list to see later. I'm certainly glad I did. After a string of disappointing comedies, I found myself belly laughing at one of the greatest satires of contemporary music I have ever seen.
I've never been a Lonely Island guy. I appreciate everything I see from the group. Their SNL digital shorts are usually a pretty solid chuckle that develops into a meme. I even really like Andy Samberg in Brooklyn Nine-Nine. But people tend to really obsess about this group. I can't say that I've ever purchased an album or have even been tempted to purchase an album. But the guys definitely have talent. It is odd watching what might be a parallel with Samberg's own career. While Connor, the brash music breakout is clearly meant to satirize Justin Bieber and Justin Timberlake (who thankfully appears in probably one of the most ludicrous roles I've seen him play), Andy Samberg's own career from The Lonely Island parallels Connor's departure from The Style Boyz. These are smart guys. I'm sure that this choice was not an accident. The other members of The Lonely Island are successful in their own rights, but there is definitely a case to be made that the story is about Samberg's rise to fame.
The comedy is absurd and it works extremely well. In terms of plot, many of the beats follow the traditional E! True Hollywood Story tropes. But it really works here. Perhaps the anchor of the piece is Tim Meadows's character, a fictional fourth member of Toni Tony Tone. I don't want to go into all of the character's beats, but there are weirdly some emotional things that the actor delivers. Or I'm just overly emotional. Either way, nice job, Tim Meadows.
Yes, the movie is wildly offensive. In an era of gross out comedies, this one is no different. But there is something honest and well timed about the movie overall. There is a work of genius in here and it really might be this generation's Spinal Tap.
Hey! A G-Rated movie! Not unrated, but full on G! Watch this with kids. (Sure, there are scary parts, but it's also Disney and Disney is weirdly terrifying at times.)
I'm going to establish my evaluative claim first. This movie is absolutely amazing. In college, my theatre professor built his curriculum on the concept that all art should be trying to change the world for the better. I always took things a little farther in the sense that art had a responsibility to be challenging. Perhaps some people will take this as a sign that films need to be controversial. I don't necessarily agree with that, but this film definitely has a bit of controversy hidden beneath its brightly colored exterior.
In many ways, Zootopia is the Black Lives Matter movement of children's films. While not preachy, the story does involve many of the concerns that plague American race relations today. The story surrounds Judy Hopps, the first rabbit police officer in her new position in the city of Zootopia. A victim of species violence as a kid, she wants to right the wrongs that come with being a smaller weaker individual in a city full of dominant species. While she tries her best to be as objective as possible in her new position, her experience with a fox causes her to fear foxes and carry protection against foxes. Her motives are honorable, but her emotions betray her. It is through her partnership with a fox that she learns to grow with people instead of actively trying to change them.
There is quite a bit of plot that shouldn't be revealed here, but thematically, it surrounds the concept that fear causes people to do stupid and dangerous things to society. Knowing how long it takes to make an animated film, I have to wonder if the fine folks at Disney have a supernatural prescience for today's culture. Between violence between the police and the political landscape, perhaps a film like Zootopia needs to be shown.
I'm always nervous about getting kids involved in politics. There's something icky about it. I can't help but criticize myself because Zootopia aligns with many of my political beliefs. When Toy Story came out, there were jokes aimed at adults that kids wouldn't get. I remember people tearing each other apart about whether that was appropriate. The thematic message of Zootopia is overt, but I don't get the vibe that kids will ever get that message until they are older. Does that make it right? I'm not quite sure. But it should be kept in mind when screening this for children. That and the fact that the movie is often very scary.
I love the fact that Judy Hopps is a flawed protagonist. Her flaw doesn't come from a mistake or a choice, but rather from simply existing in a dangerous place. Her intentions are completely noble and nothing she does contrary to the movie's primary message is intentional or even prejudiced necessarily. The movie creates a new character flaw, one that can be found in every one of us. Judy is scared of her job and knows that someone could hurt her. Her natural prejudices are reinforced by the society around her. Sometimes the wrong thing to do isn't necessarily an evil that was committed, but rather the inability to turn off one's natural instincts when the time is right.
For such a politically charged movie, Disney doesn't fail to make the movie fun and entertaining. At the end of the day, Disney knows how to create films for families. The humor is on point without trying too hard. The characters are lovable. My son carries around a Nick Wilde Infinity figurine because the movie is just fun. This is what blockbusters should be. Sure, there's going to be a blockbuster film that is going to challenge some very strong beliefs I hold, but I hope I have the openness to applaud a well delivered argument.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.