Disney did it again, and Zootopia took home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, but I wasn’t overly impressed by it. Sure the animation was flawless, the characters were good, as was the story, but when I watch cartoons, I want to laugh, and I didn’t laugh as much as I thought I should have for a Disney cartoon.
Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a bunny, who has wanted to become a police officer since she was a child. But bunnies are small, weak and timid, so there has never been a bunny police officer in Zootoipa, the land where animals all live together in harmony. Yes, in Zootoipa prey animals like sheep or bunnies no longer have to fear the predatory animals like jaguars or foxes. Judy fights against prejudice and works hard to become the first bunny officer of the ZPD (Zootopia Police Department), but a case of missing animals comes up that she must solve within 24 hours or else she must quit the force. To solve the case she turns to a street hustler fox (Jason Bateman) for help, and the two set off reluctantly together discover how and why several predator animals have apparently gone savage. Their search leads them through all the habitats of Zootopia and brings them deeper into a web of crime and corruption than they ever expected…
The film naturally has a message as it deals with prejudice and also explores the role of implicit bias in policing, which is good, but I think might have been a bit heavy for the expected target audience. It may be something that the older kids and parents in the audience will pickup on, but would be completely lost on someone like my five year old nephew. Judy does solve the case and does get predator and prey animals to once again get along and live peacefully together but not before realizing her own prejudices. Did Zootopia really need to be Serpico with animals though? When I watch cartoons (and yes, I watch them fairly regularly and by choice as an adult), I want to go back to my childhood and be amazed and entertained and laugh and maybe even shed a tear. Zootopia was entertaining, but to me it didn’t have that magic touch.
Laughter can be incredibly therapeutic so I’m always in search of good, funny, movies. Bad Words was just the thing as star/director Jason Bateman delivered a dark comedy that came very, very close to crossing the line (though I suppose that depends on where your personal line is), but still retained it’s thoughtfulness.
Guy Trilby (Bateman) is a forty year old man who has found a loophole that has allowed him to enter the Golden Quill National Spelling Bee competition. His reasons for entering are a mystery; even to his journalist sponsor Jenny (Kathryn Hahn), but Guy promises he will reveal all once he wins the competition. When parents and the director of the Bee (Allison Janney) find they can’t kick Guy out of the competition, they decide to make his life miserable by putting him up in a broom closet for a hotel room and giving him incredibly ridiculous words to spell like Floccinaucinihilipilification (the action or habit of estimating something as worthless) and Antidisestablishmentarianism (opposition to the withdrawal of state support or recognition from an established church … see you can learn things on “theswitz.wordpress.com” too!). Guy gives back as good as he gets as he mentally traumatizes the children in the competition until he meets Chaitanya Chopra (Rohan Chand), who he actually begins to connect with and almost befriends….then of course things go hilariously off the rails again as the finals of the competition loom.
Last year I had thought that all of Jason Bateman’s characters were becoming a little too much like his character from Arrested Development; the nice, responsible fatherly type who’s looking out for everyone; while there are hints of that kind character in Guy Trilby, his mean streak and vindictiveness certainly break Bateman out of that Michael Bluth mould. Bateman was also impressive as a first time director and has always had a knack for clever, verbal comedy. Young Chaitanya Chopra was pretty good himself as the earnest nine year old and Kathryn Hahn and Allison Janney are always funny and helped round out the cast nicely.
Sharply funny and full of foul language and some sexual content, I couldn’t get enough of Bad Words, nor could I stop laughing at times. It effectively tells the story with dirty jokes, then dips into heartwarming territory without being corny or fake, and holds your attention with a small, though somewhat predictable, mystery until the end. Highly enjoyable.
Bottom Line: Funny to see this is rated R in the US and only 14A in Ontario.
Well, this review will be a bit different. Tonight, I’m watching Identity Thief at an outside presentation at Lakeside Park in St. Catharines, Ontario. Yes, this is the same Lakeside Park that Rush sang about back in 1975. Open Concept Films are presenting a movie under the stars each Friday in August, this week is Identity Thief and next week, I’m really excited to see them showing Back to the Future.
In order to put my review up quickly tonight, I’m pre-doing the preamble so I can just finish it off and spout my opinions from my phone. Now, I haven’t seen Identity Thief yet or any real “comedies” lately, so I’m looking forward to it. I’ve heard good and bad things about it, but it one thing is certain, this may just prove my “crowd mentality theory”. Ninety-nine times out of one hundred, I watch my movies at home and alone, and in the past, some of the movies people have raved about, I didn’t find as funny as they made them out to be. Could the laughter of the surrounding crowd influence our own enjoyment? I think it does sometimes, but will find out shortly. As for Identity Thief, as I said, I’ve heard good and bad; some have said all the comedy is in the trailer, and some have said it was enjoyable but would never be a “re-watch”. Recently I got caught up…alright, I finally watched Arrested Development for the first time about two months ago, marathoning through the first three seasons. Based on the Identity Thief trailer, I’m not sure if I can see Jason Bateman as anything other than Michael Bluth anymore.
Okay, the movie is finished, the screen taken down, and the gear put away. It would appear a fun night was had by all, and there was a pretty good turnout. Approximately 600 people showed up to watch the film, and I must say that I enjoyed myself too. The movie was funny. I didn’t find it over the top hilarious, but the gags were good, and even the repeated punch lines worked well. Jason Bateman was Michael Bluth again. A nice guy, trying to do right for his family and dealing with the incredible situations that he finds himself in due to the uncaringness (is that a word?) of others. Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman play Sandy Bigelow Patterson. They both play that part, because she steals his identity you see. Her meddling with the real Sandy’s credit and life costs him his job and on several occasions almost gets him arrested. The only way for him to retrieve his good name is to track down the identity thief, bring her in to have her confess to the local police. I won’t go into details about how this actually happens, but suffice it to say that, in the beginning, all goes according to Sandy’s plan. On their trip back to Sandy’s home in Colorado the pair of Sandys run into skip tracers, an imprisoned drug dealers enforcers, the police and a host of characters who can’t quite see past Sandy’s (if that is her real name) lies and stories.
Identity Thief doesn’t really deviate from any path you may expect, as the resentment becomes acceptance, which warms into friendship with Sandy unsure he can complete his plan and turn her in. The ending however I did enjoy as consequences are realized and prior actions are paid for. Yes it does have a “happy ending” but it’s also a fairly realistic one given the circumstances. I did enjoy the film, and will probably rent it at some point to pick up on things I may have missed. The nice thing about home viewing is that I can pause it for a bathroom break, but with 599 other people around, that wasn’t an option tonight and when nature calls, you can’t put it on hold. The crowd may have made the film a little more enjoyable for me because I got to see how others were reacting. The shared “oohs” and “aaaahs” and even the one guy at the back who laughs at the wrong things only heightened the experience of a good, funny film and an enjoyable night in the park.
Congratulations again, and many thanks to the Open Concept Films team who organized the evening, That’s Entertainment who sponsored the evening, the City of St. Catharines for facilitating the use of the park, and Community Care who benefited from the donated canned goods from those who attended. If you have the chance to do something like this in your town (or if you’re in the St. Catharines, Ontario area next Friday) I urge you to do so, not just to enjoy a free film, but to remember and realize how many people enough small donations can benefit.