Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Review: Zootropolis (aka Zootopia)

World of Blackout Film Review

Zootropolis (aka Zootopia) Poster

Zootropolis (aka Zootopia)
Cert: PG / 108 mins / Dir. Rich Moore, Jared Bush & Byron Howard / Trailer
WoB Rating: 5/7

First things first: I enjoyed this movie. Although for Disney, it's a bit of a mess. We don't get a separate short-film at the start, as has become tradition with The Mouse's flagship animated offerings, there's no cute after-credits scene, and even though we're relatively close to the US release date, the audiences in the UK get the movie re-titled for no discernible reason. For an Easter-release, this sure feels like an afterthought.

And I don't want to start on a downer (largely because I'm going to end on one), because this is a very likeable movie with very admirable goals. The animation's gorgeous (and the teams have even found a way to showcase all their environments within the first ten minutes), the voice-acting matches the characters (Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman are perfect) and it's peppered with very funny gags which work over various age-levels. But I think the script is way tighter than the story, and individual moments stand out more than the finished movie. The sloth-scene for example is even longer than the trailer-version, and even funnier for it. Although much like a similar sequence in Hail, Caesar!, I could feel the patience of the audience starting to wear. Which just made it funnier for me, to be honest. And within the film's opening scene alone, a school play which features a young cheetah dressed in a tiger costume because he's playing a predator-archetype is already smarter writing than anything in Norm of the North.

But as much fun as I had, the movie just doesn't quite sit together the way you know it should. I suspect it's another example of Disney setting the bar too high for themselves, and the end-result is oddly non-committal. Zootropolis isn't as incisive as Inside Out, as dynamic as Big Hero 6 or as earnestly emotional as Frozen. The problem could well be that the central themes of prejudice, social cohesion and integration are too heavy for a film of this type, even for the mighty hand of Disney. While it never becomes as patronising as the other film about talking animals I watched this weekend, there's a lot of skimming and simplification going on the closer the film skirts to areas of personal belief. The fact that the closing monologue of the film openly admits as much does nothing to alter the 'eager to offer a message, desperate not to offend' tip-toeing we've just seen.

Last things last: then again, the problem could just be that the film has two directors, one co-director, two screen-writers and seven story-writers. This many cooks certain't don't spoil the broth, but their presence explains why it's so uneven...

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Despite me comparing it unfavourably, Inside Out.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Only if you desperately want the 3D (which is fine, as it usually is with animation).

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Not as much as I'd like, and not as much as the creators would like, either.
It'll be a good first-step for your young padawans, though

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Cast? Difficult to tell as they're also great in live-action.
Director? Difficult to tell as there are so many of them…

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Not that I heard.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: ZooWhatever features the voice of Alan Tudyk, who will be appearing in Star Wars: Rogue One later this year.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
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