MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore. Animated Feature
The idea of living in paradise – or a utopia, if you will – is an unattainable ideal that has motivated many persons throughout the centuries to do their level best to making it happen. John Wesley sincerely believed that if we intentionally strove to allow God’s grace to work in us, we could be more and more like Christ and work towards perfection.
The thing that gets in the way of our high ideals is sin – our ability to set high ideals aside and choose self-interest over love of God and neighbor.
We are living at a time when those basic religious concepts that I have just stated are set aside by many to favor a more scientific conversation about morality. Are we biologically wired to protect ourselves and dominate creation, or can we see beyond our reptilian responses to develop more altruistic tendencies? Can we look beyond the surface and see the potentiality of breaking down class distinctions, allowing anyone to be whatever they choose to be?
I will admit that this is an awfully convoluted way to begin a film review of a Disney cartoon movie, but Zootopia invites this kind of discussion.
The story takes place in a world in which anthropomorphic animals have evolved to coexist in the urban town of Zootropia, a place where predators and prey can get along. Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) is an idealistic country bunny who believes in this kind of world, even though she is bullied as a child by a fox. She has the opportunity to leave the country for the city and be the first rabbit ever to enter the Police Academy in Zootopia, due to the mayor’s inclusion initiative. She will have an uphill climb, because even in a town where everyone gets along, they get along at different levels. She will eventually form a partnership with Nick Wilde, (Jason Bateman) a street hustler who is a fox, to take on a case to find a group of mammals who are reported missing.
The film is packed to the seams with a beautifully created world and throwaway pop culture gags that are bound to date this movie in a few years. The detective work that Judy and Nick undertake is actually a pretty good mystery. The voice actors are excellent, and Disney is cleverly marketing tie-in stuffed bunny and fox toys just in time for Easter.
What will the film mean to you? It’s bound to confuse young children with its conspiracy story, but they will enjoy the color and the chases. But there are other themes at work here to provoke adults. Is the film an allegory about racism? Is it a political film commenting on class inequality (the town is 10% predator, 90% prey)? Could it be used as a foundation for theological discussion? Yes, yes and yes.
For a film that is supposedly trying to put aside stereotypes, Zootopia wallows in jokes based on them. If you go as a family, please take time to listen to what your children have to say. And then be prepared to pay witness to your beliefs.
Four halos: There is much to talk about in a film that is also beautifully animated and full of laughs.
Three pitchforks: There is much going on beneath the surface of this imaginary paradise that’s troubling if you take the time to think about it; scenes of mild violence; pervasive name calling and bullying.
Do you have comments about this movie or movie review? E-mail your comments. (Comments will be posted to our web site.)
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
COMMENTS! Do you have comments about this movie or movie review?
E-mail comments. (Comments will be posted to our web site.)
The East Ohio Conference Office:
located in North Canton, OH.
near the Akron-Canton airport.
8800 Cleveland Ave. NW ·
North Canton, OH 44720
Toll Free: 800-831-3972
Office Hours: Monday through Friday 8:30 am – 4:00 pm.
©2016 EAST OHIO CONFERENCE. All Rights Reserved.