Film Reviews

Zootopia (2016)

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Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba

Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore

Perhaps the weirdest Disney film I’ve seen in a while, this film is a anthropomorphic buddy cop movie about the dangers of racism, sexism and profiling.

Whilst it’s often hilariously funny, the message on the whole is highly political, and it’s incredibly easy to read into this film. Especially as the opening sequence of the film in which a girl rabbit trains for the police force echoes the opening scenes of Clarice training for the FBI in Silence of the Lambs, which becomes even more pertinent when you finish the film and look back over it.

In the  world of Zootropolis, a female rabbit called Judy becomes a cop despite the odds and general attitudes that rabbits can’t be police officers. When she heads into the big city, she assigned metermaid duties, but she is determined to succeed and makes a deal with her boss to solve a string of missing persons cases, enlisting the help of a cunning fox conman. The fox, Nick, feels that he had to become a hustler to get by, since no one would allow him to be anything else. No one trusts foxes.

So whilst the film is about defying preset roles and striving to be anything you want to or can be, and I love that inspirational message, the political ideology in the film is so obvious it’s borderline awkward. I really liked this film, and it got quite a few laughs out of me. The skill displayed in the animation is mind blowing.

But.

In this film it’s really clear that there’s a very uneasy balance between the predators and the prey. The media is causes mass racial hysteria, manipulated by politicians with something to gain. There’s a scene with sheep in a meth lab. The rabbit gets offended by being called cute, and we’re told that rabbits can call each other cute, but other species doing it is offensive. Judy and another character are the only real female characters, the other being a sheep. Are women prey in this world? Is a female cop still an unusual thing? Does that mean that the fox represents the black population? It’s kind of confusing. And more importantly, I have to point out that I’m not pushing any of this on the film! It’s all there!

And this being the case, it really simplifies things. I agree that anyone can be anything they want to be, I don’t think race, gender or anything else should or can define a persons abilities. But perhaps it understates how real the difficulties are when faced with profiling. Unlike in a Disney film, you can get shot just for being a fox if you get pulled over by a cop. And if you’re a rabbit who wants to be a cop, the hazing you get is likely to be more damaging than the embarrassment of being assigned to parking ticket duty.

See It If: you want to see the underdog follow his dreams, or if you like a good laugh and don’t mind a message in your films.

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