Friday, April 8, 2016

Movie Review: ZOOTOPIA

I feel a quick introduction is due. Hi, Bailey here. I happen to be a new writer here, but we'll be best friends in no time so don't sweat it, and yeah, Zootopia is gosh darn phenomenal.

Disney has opened my Pandora's box of bias once more to not only solidify this decade as the golden age of animation, but show even today they can still make some of the best and most relevant films ever.

I'm so glad to say Zootopia lives up to the hype. The first time I heard about it, they were showing clips at the D23 expo, which somehow managed to catch the attention of nerds craving Force Awakens details, and the buzz was very high. It made me go “okay, Disney, show me what you got!" The next time was when I saw the sloth trailer come out, and it immediately had me sold. Even now it still makes me laugh, and loved seeing it in the theater. Safe to say, I was *in*. At the very best, I was expecting Wreck It Ralph crime tale, and the very least, a fun (mostly good, slighty eh) time like Peanuts. And man…those positive reviews just kept coming. My friends were geeking OUT about it, all cinephiles, telling me all it’s wonderful themes and messages that sounded too good to be true! And boy, did it deliver! It delivered so well in fact, I’m confident in the years to come, when sadly the issues it addresses will remain, it will hold up as a genius film that I'll watch time and time again, without distracting me in its complexities and possible narrative contradictions like other films with high concepts (Sorry Inside Out, you're still a strong 3.9/5 from me).

The film follows Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin, who I've missed being in movies for quite a while now), a joyous go-getter that wants to be the first bunny to become a police officer. This desire cause her to make her way to the big city, heading to the animal utopia known as- you guessed it -Zootopia! It's once she gets there, however, she discovers- much like the audience walking in expecting a simple, light hearted yuck-yuck fest -this paradise is not what it seems. I mean, yes, it's filled with the luxuries and beauty that would make even Vladimir Lenin wet, but it happens to have the same, broken social issues and prejudices of our own society. Judy, being the bunny she is, is never respected among her ranking officers in the force, or even citizens of Zootopia. She's moved to a place where slurs and mild abuse between the species is considered the norm, and the very idea of a bunny being a police officer is absurd.

Despite all this however, Judy Hopps endures. Hopps does not submit to the institutionalized roles society has set for her, and strives above and beyond to live that dream. A dream that's been with her when she was a child, when her parents told multiple times that "settling is okay", and yet negates all of that to see it through. It's this admirable quality alone, and I'm not even mentioning her great, genuine personality and her actions throughout the film, that makes her a brilliant character, and one that embodies the word "likable" and role made. It's this type of character that leads us into  this dramatic, comedic, crime capper buddy cop movie of awesome! Woo woo!

A complaint may be the film never strays from the cliché through line plot, but I personally *love* that decision. One because it doesn't *feel* cliché, thanks to the wonderful script by Jared Bush, who co-directed the film alongside Byron Howard and Rich Moore, but because we follow a character that dreams of being a cop, and yet endures the social stigmas and prejudices I've mentioned, Judy Hopps *deserves* that awesome crime capper, man! 48 Hours to crack the case?! Pfft, who needs Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte when you have Hopps and the sly fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a con-artist she forces into helping take on the case of her lifetime. When the drama comes, it hits hard, and it shouldn’t be understated the film is *hilarious*. So much so it surpasses Wreck-It Ralph (4.5/5) in almost every way, particularly when it comes to the balance in humor and drama. The film had me chuckling and smiling throughout, to the extent my mouth actually hurt during and walking out of the cinema. The film is packed with in-jokes, so much it’ll make your head spin. It addresses ideas like film piracy and substance (every time you can reference Breaking Bad, reference Breaking Bad…), animal stereotypes and breaking them to address social issues, it references movies from Disney's own repertoire to a FANTASTIC scene recreation from the likes of The Godfather. And it all works. The film engrosses you using it's humor, genuine mystery (who would have thought that?) and genuine drama that makes you care. It all honesty, it felt like a crime epic, condensed into the span of what seemed like an hour and twenty. It never left me bored. I was barely ever critiquing, except maybe me being a cynic fuck here and there, but for the vast majority it charmed me.

It had a great soundtrack by Michael Giacchino, that’s definitely no Up but certainly better than Tomorrowland. There are no standout tracks except the song by Shakira that really worked, so I wouldn't buy it on it's own, but a great soundtrack blends into the film just like the one here. PHENOMINAL animation and cinematography. Many times I caught my mouth dropping, particularly when we got to the opening landscape shots of Zootopia, and I was just left wondering “how in the hell do people make this?” Brilliant stuff. The entire cast fit their roles great, particularly Jenny Slate, JK Simmons and the man's man Idris Elba. Jason Bateman (who should have been an Oscar nominee for his performance in last year’s The Gift) was really good, showing he’s just OH so good at snarky wit. He somehow managed to pull emotion and reservation from a cartoon fox and make you feel it. Wow. Real MVP for me however goes to Ginnifer Goodwin. I’m telling you, this is a girl that should have been in a lot more movies after He’s Just Not That Into You (a movie where she’s the only real good) with a voice so elegant and pure you never get pulled out remembering this is a celebrity. You sense the character, you love the character, and that is A Grade awesome to me.

What else? Gosh. It’s better than Frozen (a film I feel is terribly underrated now. I still think that movie is lovely as fuck, though not perfect). I think it's definitely better than Big Hero 6, which sadly I was underwhelmed by but still enjoyed, and just edges out Wreck It Ralph as Disney Animation's top tier 3D animated film. I tried looking for negatives just to be objective but there's honestly nothing wrong with it. I had maybe *two* nit-picks here and there, like a certain twist that happens that initially made me think “Oh, I’m not sure about that”, particularly because it was with a character I liked, but later on I realised “you know, it actually relates to the hierarchy of today, and the issues regarding corruption with an overpowering higher class and a pitted against each other lower class thanks to their actions and selfish desires”, that just had me gobsmacked. Again, it’s a great and as of today at least, deserves one of the highest grades grade. Welcome Zootopia, to the golden age of animation!

Bailey's Score: 9/10

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