Zootopia

Zootopia looks great and has spectacular voice work, but it lacks the magic that would elevate it to the top rung of Disney animation work. Zootopia’s plot exposition and message causes it to fall short in the pure fun and laughter departments. But don’t let those slight qualms stop you from seeing it.

Judy Hopps (Gennifer Goodwin) is a bunny whose farmer parents (Bonnie Hunt and Don Lake) encourage her to set her personal ambition bar low and settle. Judy, however, wants to move to the city of Zootopia and join the police force.

Zootopia looks like a cross between Shanghai and the Capitol in The Hunger Games. This fauna universe is divided into zones that include a rain forest, a desert and a wintry world, as well as the downtown area. It’s a city where all the animals coexist peacefully because the predators have somehow mellowed out.

After Judy becomes an officer, her boss Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) limits her work to issuing parking citations. She does her best, writing hundreds of tickets each day. On the street, she encounters a nemesis, soon to become an ally, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a fox.

Zootopia has two main messages. #1. Don’t get in a hurry when you visit the license office—especially in Zootopia where the DMV is staffed by sloths. (See trailer at top of this post.) #2. You can overcome stereotypes and be who you want to be. Judy, a bunny, is typically too small to be a cop. And Nick, a fox, turns to a life of deception because, well, foxes are scheming hustlers.

The film’s story centers around a group of predators who have reverted to their violent ways and are being caged on the edge of town. What’s causing them to go back to their instinctive states? Judy goes to work to solve the mystery and Nick pitches in.

Since this animal world is a metaphor for our human society, I wonder who the suddenly-wild-and-dangerous-again predators are supposed to represent. I don’t dare speculate here for fear of offending a particular race or ethnic group.

A few more of the talented voice cast members who populate Zootopia are Tommy Chong, J.K. Simmons, Jenny Slate, Alan Tudyk, Octavia Spencer and, as a singing Gazelle called Gazelle, Shakira.

Zootopia, like the best animation efforts of the past few decades, has fun stuff for adults as well as kids. I suggest you view the film as a light amusement and don’t worry about messages or metaphors. Zootopia is not an all-time great, but it’s pretty good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obvious Child

 

Obvious Child begins with 20-something comedian Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) talking on stage about stains on her underwear. Her standup routine includes highly personal observations, a la Louis CK, but Donna is not nearly as funny.

Offstage, she generates laughs. When her boyfriend dumps her, she goes to her apartment and humorously consumes a whole bottle of wine. Later, she stands across from the boyfriend’s place for some “light stalking” to see him walk out with his new love.

Along with the breakup, she learns that her day job at an independent bookstore will soon end. Life sucks. She drowns her sorrows by drinking to excess and hooking up for a one-night stand with a stranger, Max (Jake Lacy). When she wakes up she spots her undies with the aforementioned stains.

When Donna realizes she’s pregnant, Obvious Child gets into gear. She decides to get an abortion, scheduled for Valentine’s Day. But will she go through with the plan? What will her mother (Peggy Draper) say? Should she tell Max about the pregnancy and abortion plan and should he have a say in the matter?

It’s wise that Obvious Child does not get into the political and moral issues raised by abortion. It is a polarizing topic but abortion has been legal in the U.S. for several decades. Her decision forces Donna to grow up a bit and take responsibility, rather than continue to drift through her twenties.

Obvious Child might’ve worked better if Donna Stern were a funnier standup comedian. Some of her routines are personally cathartic. They advance the story, but lack consistently funny punch lines.

It may be a risky move to cast SNL alum Jenny Slate in the lead role, but she has real talent and shows potential for a good film future. Slate is funny, cute and likeable.

This small film (85 minutes) is not for everyone. Its dialogue and central story may be off-putting to many. But director and co-writer Gillian Robespierre is to be saluted for making a movie that’s not your cookie-cutter rom-com—not hardly!