Zootropolis/Zootopia Review

Zootropolis/Zootopia (2016) directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush. Written by Jared Bush and Phil Johnston.

Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Tommy Chong, Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate, and Shakira.

Synopsis: In a world of anthropomorphic mammals, bunny rabbit Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) is a big fish (or rabbit for that matter) in a small pond (rabbit hole) and grows up desperate to be a police officer. However, her parents (Bonny Hunt and Don Lake) discourage this as they see it as dangerous and not something rabbits do. Ignoring her parents’ advice, Judy decides to move away to Zootropolis to fulfil her dream, a big city where she joins the police force. However, not being taken seriously by her boss Chief Bogo (Idris Elba), a cape buffalo, she is assigned to parking duty. As the story progresses, Judy volunteers herself for a missing mammal case to find Mr. Otterton, an otter who has mysteriously disappeared – very much against the will of Bogo. With the help of a con artist fox, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), Judy is given 48 hours to solve the case or she will lose her job.

I had the pleasure of seeing this movie in an advanced screening for free, and I had been looking forward to it due to the impressive trailer I had seen many weeks before.

Firstly, the animation is impressive, as is the plot. This is essentially an animated whodunit, and adopts the sensibilities of that genre. There is even a parody of The Godfather with a Brandoesque arctic shrew ironically named Mr. Big, as well as many other humorous events that occur.

Much like many other animated offerings, this story has strong universal themes which people of all ages can relate to. There is the theme of acceptance regardless of species, as well as stereotypes. These are embedded within the narrative, and protagonist Judy faces these obstacles throughout.

Although being aimed at the child demographic, this is very accessible to adults and an enjoyable movie for all ages. The sheer array of different animals with differing characteristics give the story endless entertaining factors. The movie will most definitely have a sequel at some point, and I highly recommend this to anyone. A sloth named Flash steals the show, so look out for this – you can’t miss him.

By Robert Spence

Photo Credit: [Disney]

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Smashed Review

Smashed (2012), directed by James Ponsoldt and starring Aaron Paul and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. This film won the Special Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival which is what intrigued me. Also, since watching him in Breaking Bad, I was curious to see Paul in another portrayal than that of Jesse Pinkman. Oscar winner Octavia Spencer also appears in a supporting role here.

Synopsis: This story centres on a married couple who have a drinking problem. When teacher Kate Hannah (Winstead) realises her drinking is getting too much, she decides to try and go sober. As a result, their relationship is put to the ultimate test.

Early on, it is quickly established that alcohol plays a big part in the main character’s lives and in their relationship. Our opening scene shows both of them awaking from a hangover after a heavy night of drinking. We see flashbacks of Kate drink driving, smoking crack, and waking up in strange locations. There is even a scene where she drinks in the morning before going to teach her class. This is when we see she needs some serious help. Kate is also on first name terms with one of the convenience store workers due to how frequently she purchases alcohol from there. Therefore, we quickly realise that Kate needs to do something about her life.

When one of her colleagues admits he has struggled with alcohol for years, he advises she attend a recovery meeting with him. This becomes an integral part in helping with her issues, and is also where she meets her sponsor Jenny (Spencer). The repercussions this has on her relationship is of interest because Charlie (Paul) chooses not to stop drinking. Therefore, Kate’s newly found sobriety makes her see things from a new light, and in turn Charlie begins to resent her too.

There are times during this movie where I genuinely cringed at what Kate was doing when she was drunk. Writers James Ponsoldt and Susan Burke did a great job in conveying the downward spiral she is on, and made me rally for her success. The root cause of her drinking seems to stem from her family life, as we learn her father was an alcoholic and her mother (whom she is not really close with) also drinks a lot. Kate also mentions that she was overweight in school, and the alcohol seemed to help with her weight loss.

Overall this is an interesting film, and is a very quick viewing at a running time of 81 minutes. The acting is good, and Winstead really stands out as the film’s main protagonist. Winstead and Paul seem to have good onscreen chemistry which also makes the performances more believable. Without trying to ram the message down the viewer’s throats, this film really does highlight the effects of alcohol and how much of an impact this can have on people’s lives.

I recommend this film.

By Robert Spence