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Zootopia

Judy Hopp is a bunny who wants to be a cop in Zootopia, a world where bunnies are farmers, not cops.  It’s also a world where foxes used to eat bunnies, but not anymore… now they all get along. At least in theory.  In reality, foxes are just as boxed in as bunnies — according to everyone, they are tricksy and dishonest, and you should never trust them.  Are foxes criminals because they’re good at it, or because it’s the only economic opportunity available to them?  Nobody in Zootopia is really asking that question, but the movie itself is asking it with force.

Some people have gone on record saying that this is a Disney movie about race in America.  I find that problematic.  There are some clear parallels, but other places it just as clearly breaks down – or delivers the wrong message if interpreted through that lens.  Instead it makes more sense as a movie about prejudice in general, and the dynamics of Zootopia draw on multiple biases. When Judy wants to be a cop but nobody believes she can be any good, she is a woman in a man’s world.  But when the predators are stereotyped and feared because of the actions of a few predators, they are black men — or maybe Muslims. I think this is a strength of the film: it speaks to contemporary issues, while transcending them.  It’s about race in America, or religion in the Middle East, or sexism anywhere.  It’s about any time — and there are myriad examples — someone in power uses fear and prejudice to multiply or amplify that power.  Unity sounds nice (and everyone says they want it,) but fear is high-octane political fuel.  It also captures aptly how racism (or pick your prejudice) can feel like something “those people over there” need to stop doing, until you suddenly find things coming out of your own mouth that are hurtful to people you care about deeply.

Like most premises, this one is pretty simple, and “Zootopia” would be a pretty simple movie if it weren’t for writers working overtime to load it with insights and subtext, parallels to real life (“A bunny can call another bunny cute, but when another animal does it…”) and most of all, humor.  As a result, “Zootopia” really jumps, and I look forward to seeing it again, because I’m sure there were clever little asides and visual bits and dynamics that I missed.  In that way, it resembles, “Inside Out” which still reveals new things on subsequent viewings, and “Wreck-It Ralph,” which was loaded with nostalgia.

It doesn’t always work.  I personally hated the trailer, and the scene in the film that became the trailer, because it’s a one-joke gag that goes on and on… and on.  And the plot becomes a little convenient towards the end — unless someone can explain to me why carrot farmers also grow poisonous berries that make people go crazy right alongside the carrots.  But it’s without a doubt a notch above most animated fare, and I look forward to seeing it again.

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Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

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  1. My daughter of 3 loved it and honestly I didn’t mind watching it with her. the story is good and the characters are funny, what more do you want from a child movie? :)

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