Tag Archives: Bonnie Hunt

Zootopia (2016, Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush)

Ah, the socially responsible children’s movie, or: the progressive soulless capitalism of the Walt Disney Corporation, twenty-first century iteration. I went into Zootopia waiting for it to be great–I assumed the filmmakers would take responsibility for the big questions they imply–then I waited for it to be good, then I waited for it to be over. It’s a perfectly competent, perfectly satisfactory outing. Girls have a positive role model in Ginnifer Goodwin’s protagonist, the first rabbit cop, and boys will be positively reassured of their superior position in society thanks to Jason Bateman’s rogue sidekick. Watching Zootopia, you can just imagine Disney drones toggling between Buzzfeed and The Toast for concepts.

And not in a bad way, right? I mean, it is just a kid’s movie about anthropomorphized mammals. It’s not going to do any permanent damage, is it? It’s just a movie about how predators and prey can live together as long as predators are okay with the prey thinking they’re socially and morally inferior than the prey. Oh, wait, no, it actually seems like a big question and Zootopia tries to walk back from it immediately after every time it comes up. It flares. Someone who rewrote the screenplay added this occasional flaring up of really gross social commentary. It might be unintentional, but it’s gross. And obvious.

But it’s well-acted and the plotting is fairly strong. Directors Howard, Moore and Bush do better when handling suspense than action. Zootopia is kid’s CG and the animals are stylized not just to be more genially anthropomorphized, they’re also made adorable. It’s manipulative, it’s Disney, it means what could be amazing action set pieces are just passible CG animation instead. There’s great potential in a chase sequence through a “mouse metropolis” and the filmmakers go with plastic-y CG for the setting instead of any realism. It looks like a toy commercial, it’s got limited potential. But when Goodwin and Bateman are doing a James Bond movie action sequence, it’s awesome. It’s a shame everything’s so uneven.

In the supporting roles, Idris Elba and J.K. Simmons do well. There aren’t a lot of good parts. Even Simmons and Elba don’t have good parts. I mean, Goodwin doesn’t even have a good part, not really. Even Bateman has some really weak material–Zootopia’s so confused it can’t even commit to its charismatic antihero love interest dude.

And Jenny Slate’s not great. Her part’s crap, but she’s not great. The part needs some kind of greatness.

Still, it’s a kid’s movie. For me, I just wish it was better directed. But for a kid’s movie, I wish it didn’t fumble with its social message. I wish it comment on real world racial stereotypes with absurd entries in a “Friends Against Humanity” game. I wish the directors and the writers took it seriously, but Disney isn’t even Disney anymore. It’s just progressive soulless capitalist filmmaking, what should one expect from it? It’s not *Animal Farm*, after all, it’s just a kid’s movie.*

* Of course, *Wind in the Willows* is just a kid’s book and it’s thoughtful about how it anthropomorphizes its animals.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush; screenplay by Bush and Phil Johnston, based on a story by Howard, Moore, Bush, Jim Reardon, Josie Trinidad, Johnston and Jennifer Lee; edited by Fabienne Rawley and Jeremy Milton; music by Michael Giacchino; production designers, David Goetz and Dan Cooper; produced by Clark Spencer; released by Walt Disney Pictures.

Starring Ginnifer Goodwin (Judy Hopps), Jason Bateman (Nick Wilde), Idris Elba (Chief Bogo), Jenny Slate (Bellwether), Nate Torrence (Clawhauser), Bonnie Hunt (Bonnie Hopps), Don Lake (Stu Hopps), Octavia Spencer (Mrs. Otterton), Alan Tudyk (Duke Weaselton) and J.K. Simmons (Mayor Lionheart).


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The Radiator Springs 500½ (2014, Rob Gibbs and Scott Morse)

There's some charm to The Radiator Springs 500½, but nowhere near enough. There are hints of good ideas–like a Western showdown motif at the beginning–and some of the failed gags should have worked–a car who comes along to do the cymbals after a pun. Oh, right, it's a Cars spin-off cartoon short. Forget to mention that part.

Anyway, there's nothing cohesive about it. Half the short is the good car (voiced by Owen Wilson, who must have been busy because he has almost no lines) racing against these bad cars who have no respect for the town. Then the town cars are on this idyllic anniversary drive.

There's an effective junk yard sequence towards the end, but otherwise it's tepid and without any excitement. Springs's greatest stylistic influence appears to be video game cut scenes. Whoop-de-doo.

It might get points for being harmless, but why give points for being harmless?

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Rob Gibbs and Scott Morse; written by John Lasseter, Jeremy Lasky and Gibbs; edited by Torbin Xan Bullock; music by Mark Mothersbaugh; production designer, Anthony Christov; produced by Mary Alice Drumm; released by Walt Disney Pictures.

Starring Owen Wilson (Lightning McQueen), Larry the Cable Guy (Mater), Steve Purcell (Sandy Dunes), John Cygan (Idle Threat), Jess Harnell (Blue Grit), Bonnie Hunt (Sally Carrera), Cheech Marin (Ramone) and Danny Mann (Shifty Sidewinder).


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Jumanji (1995, Joe Johnston)

Jumanji is a thoroughly decent film, mostly due to good production values and Johnston’s direction.

It’s sort of hard to talk about the film due to the plotting. The film’s not real time, but the present action is still short… or not. In some ways, it’s twenty-six years, in others, it’s a day and a half and, in even others, it’s five minutes. Or three hours and five minutes. It’s not a problem for the film, which is just an amusement. There’s no attempt at any depth, just competent presentation of depth in the moment.

Jumanji doesn’t even work in a way one could take it seriously.

The casting is solid, though Bebe Neuwirth gets the short end of the stick. Adam Hann-Byrd is rather good. Robin Williams is fine, even if the script loses track of how to treat his character after a certain point. David Allen Grier and Bradley Pierce are both good. It’s hard to believe, between Pierce and Kristen Dunst (the kids in the movie), Dunst is the one who still acts professionally.

There’s a nice little James Handy cameo.

The film just has a good feel to it, something James Horner’s music helps.

The special effects are fine. While from the early days of CG, Jumanji would be impossible without it… as opposed to using CG instead of practical effects.

Whenever the film’s ambitious or attempts something, it succeeds. It doesn’t try to do much… but when it does, it does them right.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Joe Johnston; screenplay by Jonathan Hensleigh, Greg Taylor and Jim Strain, based on a story by Taylor, Strain and Chris Van Allsburg and on a children’s book by Van Allsburg; director of photography, Thomas E. Ackerman; edited by Robert Dalva; music by James Horner; production designer, James D. Bissell; produced by Scott Kroopf and William Teitler; released by TriStar Pictures.

Starring Robin Williams (Alan Parrish), Bonnie Hunt (Sarah Whittle), Kirsten Dunst (Judy Shepherd), Bradley Pierce (Peter Shepherd), David Alan Grier (Carl Bentley), Bebe Neuwirth (Nora Shepherd), Adam Hann-Byrd (Young Alan), Laura Bell Bundy (Young Sarah), Jonathan Hyde (Sam Parrish), Patricia Clarkson (Carol-Anne Parrish) and James Handy (Exterminator).


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Dave (1993, Ivan Reitman)

I love scenes where actors eat. There’s a great scene in Dave with Sigourney Weaver eating a sandwich. Great stuff.

It occurred to me, while watching the film, that, while it’s still cute, it’s already a relic and it’s only twelve years old. The idea of a person wanting to be President in order to help other people, to help the less fortunate. It isn’t just that Bush is a nitwit, ass clown, he’s also viciously unkind to the very idea of helping people. At the end of Dave, when the pseudo-Capra moments filled me, altruism filled me and I wanted to be President. The sensation lasted a second or two, which is the longest it’s lasted… probably since the last time I saw Dave, or maybe when I saw Waking the Dead or something. I love how movies about politicians have to be set in the past. Except “The West Wing,” but that’s not a movie and I don’t watch it anymore, anyway.

Then reality caught up. While Kevin Kline is great throughout the film, Gary Ross’s screenplay wastes the first half, barely featuring the best parts of the film: Kline and Weaver’s relationship, Kline and Ving Rhames’ relationship, and Kline and Charles Grodin’s relationship. Wow, do I ever miss Charles Grodin. Watching him again almost made me want to try watching The Heartbreak Kid again, then my senses returned. The whole film is perfectly cast, but the front section is too heavy with Frank Langella’s villain. Langella’s great, but it’s not where the film’s meaty. Dave‘s at its best when Weaver’s around. Her scenes let the audience connect with the incredible situation (so do some of Rhames’, but not as many) and let the film approach real poignancy.

If you can believe a film about an American President who doesn’t like murdering brown people, which, historically speaking, isn’t likely.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Ivan Reitman; written by Gary Ross; director of photography, Adam Greenberg; edited by Sheldon Kahn; music by James Newton Howard; production designer, J. Michael Riva; produced by Lauren Shuler-Donner and Reitman; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Kevin Kline (Dave Kovic/Bill Mitchell), Sigourney Weaver (Ellen Mitchell), Frank Langella (Bob Alexander), Kevin Dunn (Alan Reed), Ving Rhames (Duane Stevensen), Ben Kingsley (Vice President Nance), Charles Grodin (Murray Blum), Faith Prince (Alice), Laura Linney (Randi) and Bonnie Hunt (White House Tour Guide).