While sat in the theatre last summer sitting through the trailer before watching Inside Out (2015), I found myself laughing really hard at a sneak-peak of Pixar’s upcoming feature Zootopia (later to be renamed Zootropolis). From this clip alone, I was intrigued and left with anticipation towards its release.
For those who don’t know the plot: In a world filled with anthropomorphic animals, a bunny who grew up on a farm has dreamt of becoming a police officer when she grows up ever since she was very young. Making her way to the capital, Zootropolis (their equivalent of New York, I presume), she finds her dreams of living in a city where “anyone can be anything” isn’t quite true, and there’s still much prejudice about what each species can achieve. While predators and prey have lived peacefully for hundreds of years, some predators seem to be “going savage” again, and officer Hopps (our protagonist) wants to prove she is more than a ‘dumb bunny’ by cracking the case.
Being a Disney Pixar movie, the prime audience was children and young teens, though they obviously are features for all ages to enjoy; with this in mind, I think this film subtly teaches kids about racism in a way that’s really easy to understand. From the get-go we’re shown Hopps being told by multiple characters that she can’t achieve her dream of being the first bunny police officer because she’s ‘just a bunny’, or she’ll ‘always be prey’; there’s even a moment when she first reaches the ZPD (Zootopolis Police Department) where the tiger who sits at the front desk calls her “cute”, and she points out that “bunnies can call other bunnies ‘cute’, but when other animals say it…”, which is a great way to teach kids not to use derogatory terms and slurs towards others, mainly people of colour.
Being a Disney Pixar film, I thought the feature would be funnier than it turned out to be. I don’t think this is entirely due to my age, either, as you can tell when some jokes are put in a film or show specifically to get giggles from the younger audience rather than the general. While there were some parts that I couldn’t help but laugh at, I wouldn’t put it’s comedy anywhere close to some of their other feature films, but it’s not completely dead. The entertainment of this film is more based on the plot, which genuinely holds your interest throughout the whole runtime.
(The next couple paragraphs will hold some spoilers, so read at your own risk.) The layout was very typical to most Hollywood movies, in that two thirds through the film there’s a conflict between the two protagonists who are friends, which causes them to fall out for a small amount of time; the main protagonist, while in temporary purgatory for the falling out with another main character, realises what to do to figure out how to beat the antagonist(s), but needs the help of the other protagonist; protagonists become easily resolve their issues (because it was never a big deal in the first place, but there needs to be a big conflict, so it’s made out to be a bigger issue than it would be in real life); when the protagonist thought they caught a bad guy/suspect/etc., the person they caught vanishes when off screen; the antagonist puts them in a situation where it looks like the protagonist(s) can’t escape but easily do. It follows a very simple formula that we’ve all seen countless times that’s repeated every year. If the studio wants to use over-used methods of progressing their plot then that’s their choice, but I personally think it’s a bit of a waste of everyone’s time when films continue to use the same tropes as all the others, leaving myself (and I’m sure many others) to feel like they’ve wasted at least a bit of their time on watching something they’ve pretty much seen to death, as well as losing respect from myself and other audience members for being lazy in their story telling. I know it’s easy to stick to tropes, but it’s really great to see initiative in films when their layout isn’t quite as predictable.
While we’re on the subject of predictability (obviously, more spoilers coming up – I swear, this is the last of them), I’d like to take a moment to point out how damn obvious the swapping of the ‘night howlers’ for the blueberries in the climax was. For the rebels who haven’t seen the new release and ignored my spoiler warnings, the antagonist(s) used a substance called “Night howler” to turn animals savage; the substance looks extremely similar to blueberries, and the protagonists used this to their advantage to give the old switch-er-oo. This outcome was way too obvious though, as we see Nick Wilde (our other protagonist) not only putting a handful of blueberries into his pocket – which we instantly think of when we see the night howlers in their pill form, but are later reminded of when he drops the blueberries we him and Hopps are cornered by the antagonist(s). You’d think that a studio as large as Disney would not want to treat their audience like they’re all complete idiots, and also want to build up a legitimate sense of worry when it seems like our heroes have lost.
Something that I found a little odd about the casting of this film was having Shakira play the pop idol that everyone in Zootropolis fawns over, and singing the film’s main song. While the song itself has great lyrics that also add to the over all “you shouldn’t let others get in the way of your dreams – sometimes things are hard, but you are not defined by what others call you” message that the film carries, I am bemused as to their casting choice. Legitimate question: when was Shakira last relevant? Because I recall her last being a figure that people at least had some interest in back in 2009. I don’t mean that to be rude, I simply feel like this is something they chose to do to save some cash, which is why they didn’t cast anyone who’s relevant in current mainstream music.
Other than this, I think the casting of this film was great, with some big name actors like Jason Bateman, J.K. Simmons and Alan Tudyk to name a few. Each voice fits their character really well. No complaints from me.
I don’t think there’s much else I could say about this film. It could have been a lot better, but for what it was I found it enjoyable. I didn’t find myself bored at any point in its duration, but it’s nothing to write home about. I’d say it’s a pretty okay feature. If you’re interested in watching it, I wouldn’t have a reason to tell you not to, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend it to anyone.