Saturday, March 5, 2016

Media Musings: Zootopia

It has been an incredibly long time since I posted a movie review on this blog. I'd like to try to get back into that habit, at least every once in a while.

And what a great year for it! ;) Between the live-action version of The Jungle Book, Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory, and Moana, there are a ton of movies to look forward to. Of course, I'm most excited about next year, when we finally get to see the live-action version of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. :D

Since it's been a while, I figured I should remind all of you that as a follower of Christ, my movie reviews come from a Christian worldview. Just so you're warned. ;)

Also, in my "negative elements" section, I try to mention everything I think might be an issue for some of my readers. Some of them may seem pretty trivial, but I tend to be overly cautious in this area.

I thought it would be fun to include my daughters in this review, so after I've shared my thoughts, I'll share theirs, too. :)

So, without further ado, let's talk about Zootopia. ;)

(Found on Pinterest HERE)

To be honest, I wasn't all that excited about this movie when I first saw the trailers. I didn't hate it or anything, but I didn't think it would be one of my favorites.

Boy, was I wrong.

Zootopia is so much more than a fun kid's movie about talking, clothing-clad animals. Which shouldn't be surprising. The most recent Disney films have done an excellent job at delivering a story that is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

As a parent, I can't tell you how much I appreciate this. I understand that sometimes it's okay to have entertainment without a purpose, but I've always preferred stories that entertain and give me something to come away with when I'm done.

That's not to say that they're aren't plenty of fun elements. I can't WAIT to get this on Blu-ray so I can pause it and take in some of the details and Easter eggs that I know are hiding. ;)

Zootopia tells the story of Judy Hopps, a sweet, small-town bunny with big dreams. She wants to be the first bunny cop in the large city of Zootopia, where predator and prey dwell together in harmony. Against the odds, Judy graduates at the top of her police academy class and gets the job she's always dreamed of. But soon, Judy discovers that things aren't as wonderful as she thought they'd be. Instead of being assigned to a case, she is given the job of "meter maid," in charge of giving out parking tickets.

But things are about to change. Through a series of events, Judy is given the chance to work on a missing mammal case, in which she must rely on the help of Nick Wilde, a fox with questionable standards of legality. But is there more to Nick than what there seems? Why are there so many missing mammals in Zootopia? Can Judy solve the case and finally get the respect she desires?

Positives: The overall message of Zootopia is the problem of prejudice and the conflict it creates. Characters have to set aside their preconceived notions about others who are different than them and work together. We see a clear picture of the hatred, confusion, and chaos that results when we respond to the differences in others with fear and suspicion rather than kindness.

Judy is a strong character of integrity and determination against all odds, a great role model for young girls.

Good examples of friendship, bravery, and reconciliation are shown.

The theme song, "Try Everything," has a good message about doing our best and not giving up, even when things are difficult, and even when we face the possibility of failure.

Negatives: This film has a few intense spots, some that made me jump. ;) However, my eight-year-old, who is pretty sensitive, wasn't too scared.

God's name is used inappropriately three times (which was probably my biggest disappointment in the film). And, while it's not a big deal to most, "butt" is used quite frequently. We weren't allowed to use "butt" when I was growing up, and it still makes me flinch each time someone says it. (I actually convinced one of my friends in high school to start saying "bottomhead" instead of the alternative, because it bothered me so much.) ;) I know that's going to be weird to a lot of you. ;) Just thought I'd bring it up in case it bothered anyone else.

Another thing that might cause an issue for some parents is a segment where Judy visits an animal "naturalist" club, where all of the animals are naked. Thankfully, none of them are anatomically correct. It is played for laughs, since they are all animals and shouldn't be wearing clothing anyway. I personally found the scene rather humorous and thought they did it fairly tastefully, especially considering what they could have done in a scene like that. But some parents may not feel comfortable with the whole idea (and understandably so).

Gazelle, the gazelle pop singer played by Shakira, wears a pretty skimpy costume and does a lot of hip shaking. She is also accompanied on stage by a group of muscular tigers dressed in tight, sparkly shorts. These guys dance around, shaking their hips and buns. There is also a cell phone app a couple of characters use in which they can superimpose their face over one of the tigers' faces and dance in the same manner alongside Gazelle. These are pretty small parts in the film, but I thought I should mention them.

While it is important to the story and not necessarily a "negative" element, there are a couple of rather intense scenes of bullying which might be worrying to younger viewers.

Oh, and if you're a DMV employee, you might take offense at the fact that all of the "Department of Mammal Vehicles" employees are sloths. ;)

Would I recommend it?  In spite of a few negative elements, overall I found Zootopia refreshing and entertaining. The themes and messages were woven into the story in a way that was real and thought-provoking without feeling "preachy." Setting the story in an animal world was especially clever because it played out more like a parable. I think this movie will provide an excellent conversation starter for families about prejudice and how we respond to others. It is so easy to fall into fear or suspicion when we encounter someone different than us. It's in our nature. But we all have a choice to do what is right, to respond in love and kindness. This was the main message I came away with.

There will never be a time when everyone in the world agrees. Whether it's a matter of race, religion, political preference, gender, or core beliefs, we all come from different backgrounds, cultures, and upbringings. And while there may be times when I have to stand up for what I believe is right, and it may conflict with what someone else believes, I can still do it in a way that is loving and respectful.

These themes weren't quite as apparent to the girls (especially the younger two), as you'll see in their comments below, but they all came away with the message Judy gave by example: to try things even if they are difficult and to never give up.

I wish so much that I could remember a parting speech that Judy gives towards the end of the movie. It summed everything up so beautifully and simply. I guess you'll just have to go watch the film and know that her speech is how I would choose to end this review. ;)

So yes, if you haven't guessed already, I would definitely recommend this film. There are several parts that might be too intense for younger viewers, but I would comfortably recommend it for at least ages eight and up. If you'd like a more detailed review to decide for yourself, you can check out Plugged In's take on Zootopia HERE.

Here are the girls' thoughts on the movies:

Oldest Gal (age 12...almost):

Did you like Zootopia? Yes, I did. It was such a good movie. It was so well made and so clever, particularly the part with all the tweaked Disney movie titles and company names.

What was your favorite thing about the movie? I loved all the action, suspense, and twists of the plot. I love all the characters, and how the movie always kept you guessing and gasping with surprise.

Who was your favorite character? Ffffttt...Favorite character? Are you kidding? They're all great! But it turned out that my "was going to be favorite character" was not who they seemed.

Would you recommend it to other kids your age, and why? I would totally recommend this to any kid, whether three or seventy. I would especially recommend this movie to a certain friend of mine who loves Nancy Drew and all things mystery. It is a great movie that everyone can enjoy: heartwarming, funny, and purposeful. It has a very strong and applicable meaning.

What would you say are the overall messages of the movie? Never give up, and even if others say you can't do things, that doesn't mean they're right. And just because other people with the same qualities as you made certain decisions, that doesn't mean you have to make them and it doesn't give you a right to group people together.

Middle Gal (age 10):

Did you like Zootopia? Of course, who wouldn't? It's totally awesome!

What was your favorite thing about the movie? My favorite thing was how a rabbit and a fox became friends. It was a little bit weird, because usually foxes eat rabbits. It was really funny, too.

Who was your favorite character? Who was my favorite character? Judy Hopps was my favorite character. (Lol, you guys will get the "answering a question with a question" thing when you see the movie. My clever gal.) ;) 
She's so clever and she never gives up and I wanna be like her when I grow up.

Would you recommend it to other kids your age, and why? Yes, but there is a startling part. I jumped in the theater.
It's fun, but not really scary. And it's awesome!

What would you say are the overall messages of the movie? Don't give up. Stick up for your friends. We all make mistakes, so always try again.

Little Gal (age 8...almost):

Did you like Zootopia? Totally! It's very, very funny and mysterious and it has a ton of Easter eggs in it. And also, Gazelle had more of a purpose in the movie than I thought. I thought she'd just be a background character.

What was your favorite thing about the movie? Everything! (Especially Clawhauser.)

Who was your favorite character? Judy Hopps. (I'm wearing an outfit right now actually that really looks like Judy Hopps in one part of the movie.)

Would you recommend it to other kids your age, and why? I would, because it has a very good message and it's very fun and funny. And there are really good characters.

What would you say are the overall messages of the movie? Never give up, just try again.

The gals at the theater :)

Thanks for stopping by and reading through our review. I hope you found it helpful. Will any of you be seeing Zootopia?

Official Zootopia Website

P.S. For any of you who are already Zootopia fans, you can get free shipping on all Zootopia merchandise at until tomorrow! :D Use code GOWILD. :)

I am not supported by or associated with the Disney company in any way. Just a major fan of their animated movies. ;)


SwanburneGirl said...

Good gosh, Zootopia was great! I feel like the message about prejudice and differences among people is something we really need right now. (And the villain was one plot twist I did not see coming. Wow.)

AddyLovesWolves said...

Yeah when I was younger My older siblings and I weren't allowed to say 'butt' either, but then my six younger siblings came along and the rule sort of died out :)
Zootopia sounds like a good movie! I can't wait to see it!

Kristen S Walker said...

Thanks for your review! It sounds like a fun movie. I have been reading that it seems to be better than the previews made it seem, and I'm interested in seeing it for sure. The only thing is that I want to wait until I can watch it at home so I can skip the Shakira gazelle scene. I really don't like animals presented in a "sexy" way, especially in human clothes. But otherwise it sounds really great. Thanks for all of your comments.

monstercrafts said...

Great review! I'm really looking foward to watch Zootopia, it seems to be super fun and the bunny looks so adorable.


Farrah Lily said...

Aww, thanks for this nice review. We were thinking of taking our girls (ages 3 and 6) and I never really know if it will be appropriate. They both sat through The Good Dinosaur, but were scared during a few parts (rightfully so!) so it's nice to have this breakdown. :). Glad to hear this was a good one with a good message! We weren't allowed to say a lot of things growing up either so I know what you mean! I cringe when I hear the words "fart" or "shut up" lol. ;)

Anonymous said...

I have not seen Zootopia yet, but thanks to your review I might!

Hannah Prewett (beastsbelle) said...

Thanks so much for your comments, everyone! :) I'm so glad you found the review helpful and enjoyable. I hope you all enjoy Zootopia as much as we did! :)

Farrah Lily said...

We just watched Zootopia this weekend! Thanks to your review I took the girls and we all LOVED it. I thought they did an amazing job with vocal casting and loved Jason Bateman as Nick. I also really loved the actor who played Chief Bogo. The message was really good and I tried to go over it a few times with my 6 year old, but she was more interested in running over to the Disney store to check out the merch, lol. I truly enjoyed this movie and I wasn't expected to like it so much either!
I was cry-laughing at the DMV good, haha. Flash :) I can't wait for it to come out on DVD! We also saw the preview for The Jungle Book. I can't get over the special effects! I think it would be way to intense for my girls, but I am looking forward to seeing it. :)

Hannah Prewett (beastsbelle) said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Farrah Lily! :D

Like you, I loved the vocal casting. Every character was just right. :) I found Chief Bogo likable, even though he was gruff and rather unfair at the beginning of the movie. You get the idea that he's kind of a softie underneath it all...WAY underneath. ;)

Lol, I can understand your 6-year-old's sentiment. I was wishing there was a Disney Store closer after I finished watching it the first time so I could get something from the movie. ;) The nice thing is, even if the message doesn't completely sink in now, she will still absorb it to some extent. And as she gets older, she'll be able to appreciate it more. :)

And I think we've ALL felt that way at the DMV. ;)

The Jungle Book does look incredible! Like you, I'm not sure if I'll have my girls watch least in the theaters. But I'm interested in seeing what they do with it. :)

Have a great week!