KIDS’ ANIMATED MOVIES continue to be the best adult comedies around. Zootropolis (or Zootopia as it was called in the US) is a charming, brilliantly animated morality tale of inclusion and diversity. In a futuristic (presumably after Planet of the Apes has reached its natural conclusion and only animals rule the world) city of anthropomorphic animals, a tiny bunny dares dream the impossible dream… of becoming a cop.
Even her parents try to dissuade her: bunnies do bunny things, like farming carrots (or, presumably, also turning up as chocolates at Easter). But determination will out and she eventually realizes her dream of living in the big (wonderfully imagined) city as a cop. But bunnies aren’t meant to be cops, so she’s marginalized and given traffic duties, well away from the action.
Like it or not, prejudice is alive and well.
However, the action finds her and, despite her own prejudices about their slyness, she finds herself in cahoots with a fox.
Naturally, they both transcend their biases, confound their doubters and solve the serial crimes plaguing the city, where predators, after years of evolution, appear to be reverting to type.
It’s a tale simple enough for kids, or maybe even Trump supporters, to understand: free yourself from prejudice; judge others by their actions, not the color of their fur, do what’s right, and lift yourself above your baser instincts.
First of all, the animation – a sort of quasi-realistic cartoon style – is extraordinary. The look is richly 3D. You can almost touch the fur on the animals, even as the animators don’t pretend to replicate reality (as, say in Life of Pi). The residents on Zootropolis live in various climate zones; Directors Byron Howard (Tangled) and Rich Moore (Wreck It Ralph) being a fluid, stylish direction to the tale; and their team of production designers (David Goetz and Dan Cooper) glide us through wintery landscapes, dense tropical jungles, arid deserts, and towering cities to give a bigness to the whole production.
And, as we’ve come to expect from these ‘kids’ cartoons’, the writing (by Howard, Moore and a team of ten) is smart, clever, and very funny. The ‘human’ emotions on display (via the likes of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman and Idris Elba) are also a lot more credible than, say Zoolander or any of the gross out frat boy excesses that so often nowadays passes for comedy.
Which of course begs the question: why is kid animation becoming so much more sophisticated and well written (the Toy Stories, Minions, Inside Out etc) while adult comedy (Ride Along 2, Zoolander 2, Fifty Shades of Black, Dirty Grandpa, Daddy’s Home… need I say more?) continues to degenerate into such dumb, loud, cringe-inducing, pre-pubescent rubbish?
The outsiders’ view is that Pixar, Disney and Dreamworks realize that kids are extremely non-bullshit savvy; and the 35-40 year olds who accompany them want smart fare too…so the bar is high. But the adult fare seems set to the lowest common denominator where mindless regression is the only ambition.
No mistake here: Hollywood producers (theoretically) know their audience, so maybe there’s a third perspective: Hollywood adult comedies have finally and seamlessly merged into the Republican debates.
And that’s no laughing matter.