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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
HOME / STORY

Animals Cracking

Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Published Thursday March 3, 07:08 pm
Disney goes where Republicans won’t: multicultural

Zootopia
Cineplex
4 out of 5

Taking a page from the fellas at Pixar, Disney animation is subverting the model it took the company decades to perfect. The most relevant aspect of Disney’s smash hit Frozen wasn’t the girl power manifesto but the demolition of the Prince figure, depicted in the film as vacuous, bland and potentially murderous.

Zootopiafollows suit by tackling topics very much in the zeitgeist: diversity and acceptance. The movie acknowledges the challenges that come with each, but clearly states society must make every effort to achieve inclusiveness.

The alternative is, well, inhuman.

The hero of this layered adventure is Judy Hoops (Ginnifer Goodwin), a bunny. Widely expected to join the family business — carrot farming, obviously — Judy’s fondness for fairness and justice pushes her to pursue a career in law enforcement. Cute and tiny, Judy must work a lot harder than the bigger mammals to be taken seriously. And even with a badge, she’s relegated to parking duty.

Unbeknownst to Judy, a major threat looms over Zootopia. Predators from all over town are vanishing at random. The overzealous bunny discovers a tenuous connection between the disappearances and a swindler fox that challenges Judy’s open-mindedness.

In an average animated feature, the resolution of the case would lead to a life lesson and possibly a song. Not in Zootopia: the outcome opens a new can of worms, pitting the city’s denizens — predators and prey — against each other. Simmering tensions come up to the surface and authorities take advantage of strained relationships to push their agenda (the message may still be too subtle for Trump supporters.)

The realm of Zootopia is so intricate, it’s no surprise it required the brains behind Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph and Big Hero 6 to combine forces. This is world building at its finest: not only are the idiosyncrasies of every species incorporated, they interact, clash and ultimately find a way to coexist.

The cornerstone of the film is the relationship between Judy and the aforementioned fox, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman, perfectly slimy). Early on, they play the part society has written for them (Judy is trusting and Nick is a cheat) but as they get to know each other, new and less obvious traits come to light. Tensions remain thorough the movie —they are, after all, at opposite ends of the food chain — but the characters work through them instead of letting first impressions define their rapport.

How ambitious is this movie? It introduces children (and maybe three-quarters of the population) to concepts like the spirit of the law and the policies of fear.

The denouement is a notch disappointing given its simplicity, but it’s a minor blemish next to the rich narrative that preceded it.

The heavy themes Zootopia tackles doesn’t preclude the film from being hysterical (two words: Peter Moosebridge). The attention to detail suggests the film will stay rewarding after multiple viewings: just now, I noticed in the poster an ad for “Lululemmings”. But whether you just like puns, or you think building walls across borders is a good idea (nope), you have to watch this film.

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