ZOOTROPOLIS [2016]: in cinemas now [short review]




REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic



In a world populated by anthropomorphic mammals, Judy Hopps, a rabbit from rural Bunnyburrow, fulfills her dream of becoming the first rabbit officer in the police department of Zootopia. After graduating, she is initially assigned parking duty by Chief Bogo who doubts her potential. During one of her shifts, she meets Nick Wilde and Finnick who are partners-in-crime and arrests a thief. She is reprimanded by Bogo, but when Mrs. Otterton arrives in his office pleading for someone to find her missing husband who is one of 14 mammals which have gone missing, Judy volunteers. Bogo reluctantly agrees to give her 48 hours, on the condition that she resign if she fails. She sees Nick in the last known photo of Otterton and tracks Nick down, blackmailing him into assisting her with the investigation by recording his confession to tax evasion….

Disney’s latest effort, and their first all-animal picture since The Lion King, is already a huge hit, but I was a little underwhelmed by it. There’s definitely a lot to like and appreciate, but it doesn’t entirely make the most of the fascinating world it’s set in and falls too often into the trap of using its story to preach about diversity, tolerance and empowerment rather than the messaging feeling like an organic part of the narrative. A particular low point is when Nick calls Judy cute and she replies: “only other rabbits can call another rabbit cute”, an obvious reference to African Americans and the ‘N’ word. The Fox And The Hound was a pointed attack on racism and intolerance yet didn’t feel the need to be so didactic and even political. Another problem is that many of us have already seen most of the funniest scene – the sloths – which is undoubtedly hilarious – and nothing else in the movie is anywhere near as funny, and, while I have no problem with animated movies having jokes that only the adults will appreciate, it’s bizarre that one should have references to Frozen one minute and The Godfather, plus even Breaking Bad, the next, and it’s some of the more subtle jokes that come off better. The overall tone actually gets quite serious after the early scenes, as the film begins to work quite well as an offbeat buddy cop movie, and isn’t afraid to get rough, though, while I advocate kids being shown some dark material in amongst all the fun, I’m not sure that subjecting them to jump scares is a good idea.

An early action scene consisting of a chase in the rodent district is full of invention [Judy using cars as skates is great though too short], but the later set pieces don’t match it. The animation is some of the best you will ever see [though I couldn’t stop thinking that the film may have worked better with traditional animation], and there’s clever choice of shots throughout and great little subtle things, like the way shadows are used. When Judy meets Clawhauser for the first time, there are reflections of animals walking by on the ground, and hints of further animals walking by behind tinted translucent glass. There are also some impressive visual moments of a grander kind, like when the camera seems to swoop over Zootopia and its different areas. Judy is your typical plucky, ‘can do’ heroine, though it’s refreshing to see that she’s also a working girl struggling to make ends meet, and there is some wry mockery of some of the usual cliches, like when her parents tell her not to sing and expect her dreams to come true. I left Zootropolis though with the feeling that I hadn’t been quite entertained as much as I ought to have been. And, while it’s brave enough to do things like ask people to look beyond stereotypes while still reminding us that some stereotypes remain true, like the most basic one of carnivores eating herbivores because it’s in their nature, the film gets so carried away with its admittedly timely social commentary that it also gets a bit lost in the process and is too insistant on lecturing the viewer when it could have spent more time filling out its so-so plot or giving us some memorable supporting characters to enjoy. Zootropolis has snatches of brilliance but is overall rather uneven.

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

TANGLED – short review

After receiving the healing powers from a magical flower, the baby Princess Rapunzel is kidnapped from the palace in the middle of the night by Mother Gothel,who knows that the flower’s magical powers are now growing within the golden hair of Rapunzel, and to stay young, she must lock Rapunzel in her hidden tower.  Many years later and Rapunzel is now a teenager and her hair has grown to a length of 70-feet.  She has been in the tower her entire life, and she is curious of the outside world.  Then bandit Flynn Ryder scales the tower and is taken captive by Rapunzel.  She strikes a deal with the charming thief; to act as her guide to travel to the place where the floating lights come from that she has seen every year on her birthday……

I should have known this would be a disappointment when Disney [well the studio called Disney which doesn’t much resemble the Disney of yesteryear] in their infinite wisdom changed the title from Rapunzel to Tangled, but as a Disney fan I expect some kind of magic from each animated film.  Tangled has little of that magic, it attempts to combine a typical fairytale plot ala Sleeping Beauty with a Shrek-kind of attitude but neither really works-the main story is only mildly involving and even dull at times [with a final act that is a little rushed and almost incoherent], while the humourous  element doesn’t really work because it’s not especially funny.  The heroine is inconsistently characterised and alternates between superwoman and old-style damsel in distress, while other characters are either wasted [i.e.Maximillian the horse] or start off interesting and then have little done with them  [Madame Gotell the main villain], and some  look terribly like variations of older Disney characters.  Honestly, imagine Bolt as a horse?  You get Maximillian. The CG is mostly fine, with lovely backgrounds and Rapunzel’s hair gorgeously evoked, and the much praised lantern scene is indeed beautiful [though I didn’t bother seeing this in 3D as I didn’t want to see it darker than it should be].  However Alan Menken’s songs sound like bland rehashes of older songs and are really quite poor.  Tangled does just about entertain if you forget about Disney’s great legacy and seems to be pleasing kids judging from the showing I was at, but it just seems as if Disney are playing safe almost to the point of blandness with the film.  The much criticised The Princess And The Frog was far better than this.

Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆