For Reel


Zootopia (2016)
May 8, 2016, 7:56 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , , ,

Director(s): Byron Howard, Rich Moore & Jared Bush
3.5 Stars
ZootopiaAs an art form, animation has long relied on an audience’s instinctual interaction with different kinds of images. Just as a black hat might tell a viewer who the villain in a western is, so too can an anthropomorphic golden retriever suggest a certain playfulness and loyalty. It is quite extraordinary, then, that Zootopia seeks to draw attention to the assumptions that its very form exploits. The best thing about how the film introduces this idea of generalization is that it is equally accusatory of everyone—even the lovably plucky heroine (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) is guilty of having made certain value judgments about the fox (voiced by Jason Bateman) she partners up with. Zootopia‘s approach is to first draw attention to the fact that we, as humans, make these generalizations. Rather than demonizing this impulse, Zootopia seeks to understand it and coexist with it. Unfortunately, the film’s lofty themes are at odds with the ambitious but ultimately forgettable execution—the humor is often too pleased with itself, favoring referential humor (including a Frozen in-joke and a riff on The Godfather) more than genuinely clever lines. Moreover, the leads themselves are wrought to represent ideas and never really come alive as characters. Regardless, Zootopia‘s genius of relating one’s relationship with the art of animation to issues like racism is a provocative one, and it is refreshingly unafraid to pull punches.

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