Friday, March 4, 2016

Zootopia ★★★

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    Is it just me, or are Disney films becoming less magical and proportionally more preachy? Or, shall I say, increasingly self-righteous? Every picture produced by the megacorporation in recent memory seems to emit this sanctimonious attitude, and although they appear to have good intentions, this is something that we should not take lightly. (If this were the Golden Age of Hollywood, these types of productions would surely be viewed as "preachment yarns," which is essentially a euphemism for propaganda.)

    Don't get me wrong. I am never one to bemoan the manufacturing of a moral implication or social problem film. (On the contrary, I undoubtedly have a fondness for these kinds of movies, and I support their existence and continuation indefinitely.) It's just nothing's subtle anymore. It used to be children could view an animated picture without being bombarded by deliberately instructional dialogue and language that would have even a man of the cloth imploring for mercy; they used to have to work for the theme. Did "Dumbo" pound its audience with barefaced motifs in an effort to convey its central concern? It did not, nor did it have to.

    A message to the reader: If you are solely searching for a recommendation, then here it is"Zootopia" is truly a riveting film; I'm sure that adolescents will enjoy it immensely. If you wish to delve deeper into matters, then I suggest that you continue reading.

    On the surface of things, "Zootopia" or "Zootrópolis" if you live in Europe, the former also being the name of the modernistic, mammalian melting pot utopia that is our setting, is a winsome little movie that centers around the life of Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), a bunny who has reveries of becoming an officer of the law. She is small in stature and cute as a button, and this doubtlessly leads to some minor prejudices and to several moments of individual success.

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    And then the film (almost expectantly) begins to transition into this allegorical, satirical narrative that is decidedly anti-prejudice, anti-stereotyping, anti-sexist, and anti-racist before it inevitably settles on a buddy cop storyline that is clearly more charming and to tell you the truth, the latter saves the picture from complete nonfulfillment. (Let's just say the film's anti-discriminatory theme was laid on thick and often.)

    Characters utter mechanical phrases such as "Change starts with you" and "Try and make the world a better place," and if this doesn't sound like social conditioning, then I'm not sure what is. There's even a number entitled "Try Everything," which does have a quaint message of perseverance; nonetheless, contributing to a holier-than-thou ambiance that is indecently overbearing and unquestionably disreputable. Some might call these messages timely and examples of AmericanismI would hold them to be obvious and ineffective.

    Screenwriter Phil Johnston and writing newcomer Jared Bush go for broke, and, well, it would seem as if all subtlety is lost. Similarly, who could forget an on-screen persona in Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a devious fox nicknamed "Slick Nick," that is nothing more than a reimagined, modernized version of the "Pinnochio" antagonist named Honest John, and this time around, he comes complete with sappy backstory. What would appear to be original ultimately becomes clichéd, and I'm tempted to declare the entire product as a poor propaganda piece dominated by political correctness. (My reluctance to do so only highlights the worth of the film's more light-hearted sentiments.)    

    I, for one, do not oppose what's being broadcasted here. There is simply a bigger issue. Of course, every film has a message, whether it lies in the realm of moral implication or elsewhereeven the "Transformers" franchise has a theme of sorts. But to routinely make moral conditioning the sole motivation of a picture is problematic. (This isn't the first time Hollywood has been accused of propagandizing audiences, and it certainly will not be the last. Nevertheless, I'm afraid that this behavior has become Disney's latest modus operandi; it's a slippery slope.) Frankly, films that are this morally blatant should never be considered art, and they hardly warrant the classification of entertainment. Indoctrinating for good is still indoctrinating.

    On a side note, anthropomorphism has hit an all-time low. It's bad enough that we have succumbed to the ills of the twenty-first century. Must we destroy the lives of these innocent creatures as well? (Naturally, I'm just being a bit cynicalafter all, I am a stern follower of The Cynic's Word Bookbut this observation does deserve some form of recognition.) Our mammal counterparts engage with Iphones and Ipods at times during the production, and this only alludes to the influence of such things on our corporate-driven lifestyles. Maybe I'm just too old-fashioned for my own good.

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