It’s rare to see a Disney animated movie so early in the year, but after clunkers like Norm of the North, the market is in need of a quality family movie. Thankfully, in the past few years Disney studios have managed to outdo even Pixar in terms of animated fare.
Zootopia is the animal city of the future. Each species has moved past the old ways of predator and prey. Now, there is a domesticated world where animals largely live in peace and fulfill specific roles. Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) is a bunny that has always had big dreams of being a cop in the big city. She soons learns that her dreams aren’t as lavish as she hoped. Because she doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the cops, she is tasked to be a meter maid. However, she can’t resist but look for the next big case. In order to solve a case of strange disappearances, she must seek the help of a species that she trusts the least, a fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman).
The plot is something akin to a typical procedural TV drama, where a plucky cop teams up with an unlikely ally to solve a crime that may, or may not, have a nefarious cause behind it. Judy and Nick follow a number of clues to get to the bottom of the disappearances. In doing so, they uncover a bigger secret of the seemingly peaceful city. Outside the simple story, this is when the movie finds the morality tale within.
Zootopia has something to say and it’s not just the simple, “Live outside the box and follow your dreams” mentality. Nearly two-thirds into Zootopia and it cleverly weaves in a socially-conscious message of the dangers of xenophobia. Normally, I like my animated movies propaganda-free, but this gives a message that should not offend.
Judy is a downright adorable leading character. Her enthusiasm for life and simple work ethic are contagious. The rest of the voice cast (Idris Elba, Bonnie Hunt, JK Simmons and Alan Tudyk) are impressive as well. There is a strange running gag about a pop star named Gazelle (voiced by Shakira) that doesn’t fit in the movie at all. She performs the closing song, which feels very tacked-on and would’ve fit better in a Happy Feet movie.
I may have oversold the morality put across by Zootopia because this movie is primarily a visually-pleasing, funny movie. It doesn’t take itself so seriously and even gets the chance to mock recent (and future) Disney movies. One thing I appreciated is that it doesn’t rely on animal behaviors as jokes. It walks the fine line of making the movie move quickly enough for children, while catering to references that parents will understand.
Zootopia is a great looking, fun movie. It is the best non-princess Disney movie in years and is sure to have plenty of playback potential. My daughter was immediately won over, which (thanks to my curmudgeonly parenting) doesn’t happen often. Her reaction also warmed me to this quality story full of great characters. B+
London Has Fallen
It’s been three short years since the nefarious North Koreans took the White House by storm and held the President and his cabinet hostage. Only one man,
Jack Bauer Mike Banning, had the courage to break in and take out each terrorist singlehandedly.
Now, President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) seems to be in trouble again as he visits England to attend the funeral for the recently deceased prime minister. All at once, a series of calculated terrorist attacks strike on the visiting dignitaries with the intent to wipe out as many Western leaders as possible. But these terrorists didn’t count on one man being in the mix –
Liam Neeson Mike Banning (Gerard Butler).
John McClane Banning has a certain set of skills, only he has the ability to protect the President as they are constantly under attack in the dangerous streets of London. The terrorists have their own reasons for pursuing the President and ultimately want to kill him and stream the footage to the world.
Have you all seen 24? If not, you should start watching it right now. I’ll wait.
24 is a strangely captivating story of one man who is tasked with saving the world one day at a time. Jack Bauer (and whomever he’s trying to protect) has THE ABSOLUTE WORST LUCK. Granted, if there was no constant threat, there wouldn’t be a series. It’s the kind of show that makes you an addict, while allowing you to turn off your brain and forget that Jack Bauer has stopped nukes in at least seven seasons.
The “Has Fallen” movie franchise is the cinematic equivalent to 24. It captions the main character names that you need to know and even shows the digital time every once in a while, just to keep the tension. Banning could easily be seen as the worst secret service agent, as he’s let his boss be in harm’s way twice now. However, no one can say he’s the worst, because he’s essentially a bulletproof Schwarzenegger from the movie, Commando.
None of this silliness takes away from the fun. The action scenes are thrilling. When they hit, they hit hard. The sheer amount of tension will make you forget about the terrible dialogue delivered by great actors like Morgan Freeman and Melissa Leo.
At one point in the movie, the Secretary of….Panicking (?) states that “All of the major landmarks in London have been destroyed!” It’s a laugh out loud moment that shows what this movie is. It makes me think that Carmen Sandiego and her crew are the real terrorists here.
After all this, I have to say that I didn’t hate this big stupid movie because it’s fun in all the right and wrong ways. It feels reminiscent of a ridiculous beat-em-up flick from the 80s and early 90s. C