Tag Archives: Jason Bateman

Hop To It

Hip, heartwarming ‘Zootopia’ shows how far House of Mouse has evolved

Zootopia

Starring the voices of Gennifer Goodwin & Jason Bateman

Directed by Brian Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Rush

PG

A little girl dreams of leaving her rural hometown, moving to the city, becoming something no one else has ever been and making the world a better place. Sounds like a cliché, you say. Well, maybe—except in Zootopia, the little girl is a bunny, she wants to be a cop, and the city is full of other animals, but no people.

And there’s this: Rabbits are “prey,” like 90 percent of the population of the mammal metropolis of Zootopia, which is also home to predators—lions, tigers, wolves, foxes, jaguars. But over the centuries, prey and predators have evolved past their primal, biological instincts and learned to coexist…mostly.

And Zootopia, the latest Disney film, shows just how far the House of Mouse has evolved from dreamy prince-and-princess fairy tales of decades past. There’s bold new energy and excitement coursing through the studio, and it’s everywhere in this hip, ingenious, wildly creative tale full of wit, emotion and a message of inclusion, understanding and diversity.

To see where the movie gets its mojo, start at the top. Co-directors Brian Howard and Rich Moore’s credits include Disney’s Tangled, Bolt and Wreck-It Ralph as well as The Simpsons.

Zootopia’s first bunny officer Judy Hopps finds herself face to face with Nick Wilde, a fast-talking, scam-artist fox.

The smart, super-sharp story (Jennifer Lee, one of the writers, won an Oscar for Frozen, and Phil Johnson wrote the new Sacha Baron Cohen comedy The Brothers Grimsby and the underrated Cedar Rapids) begins with the departure of buoyantly optimistic Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) from pastoral Bunnyborough for the teeming Xanadu of Zootopia, where she aspires to become a police officer, the city’s first bunny cop. She does, and quickly hops smack into some deep-rooted prejudice, fears and stereotypes.

An elephant refuses to serve a fox in his ice cream parlor; a tiger is told, “Go back to the forest, predator!” It’s no stretch to substitute racism, sexism and other “isms” for the “species-ism” that Judy finds separating animals that are otherwise friends, neighbors, coworkers and fellow citizens.

After Judy encounters Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a sly fox who makes his living running small-time scams and hustles, she soon must enlist his help investigating a mysterious case that’s baffled the police chief (Idris Elba, a blustery cape buffalo).

To say much more about the plot—which deepens and thickens considerably—would give away its many delights. The animal animations are outstanding, and the computer artists create special-effect magic melding the menagerie with the personalities of the actors—J.K. Simmons as a lion, Jenny Slate as a sheep, Tommy Chong (of Cheech & Chong) as a “naturalist” yak, pop star Shakira as a sexy gazelle (who sings the movie’s theme song, “Try Everything”).

The movie is a visual feast full of fun, suspense, surprise and adventure. It delivers its uplifting, more serious theme of unity and togetherness in a way that will rarely feel preachy or ponderous for kids. Grownups will keep busy tracking the dozens of pop-cultural riffs, sight gags and in-jokes, including meta-references to other Disney flicks and nods to classic Hollywood, like an especially clever Godfather scene and one of the best cop-doughnut jokes in any movie, ever.

From a talking mouse mascot to a flying elephant and 101 Dalmatians, Disney has always had a thing for animals. In Zootopia, they’re not only running the show, they’ve taken over the world. And they’ve got a very important, oh-so timely message for us all.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

From Bad to Worse

Things go wrong in ‘Horrible Bosses’ sequel, in more ways than one

Horrible Bosses 2

Horrible Bosses 2

Starring Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day

Directed by Sean Anders

Rated R

If you got a chuckle out of the first one, you’ll probably get a chuckle out of this one. But just because you might doesn’t mean you should. And why don’t you save your titters for something that’s not such a waste of talent, a lazy roll over retreaded gags, and a smutty stroll down a street full of racist, sexist and homophobic jokes?

The first Horrible Bosses, in 2011, set up an initially amusing, over-the-top, screwball comedy: Three hapless schmucks (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day), each so exasperated with their individual employment situations, were driven to an absurdly extreme measure: a plan to murder their bosses.

Horrible Bosses 2

Jennifer Aniston

Their bosses were pretty bad—especially the crooked, conniving business owner (Kevin Spacey) and the rapacious sexual-predator dentist (Jennifer Aniston). Awful, yes—but sometimes awfully funny.

Horrible Bosses 2

Christoph Waltz

Both Spacey and Aniston, as well as the knucklehead trio of Bateman, Sudeikis and Day, are back in Bosses 2. This time, the disgruntled employees have become entrepreneurs—they’re the bosses now—striking out on their own with a prototype for an all-in-one bathing accessory. But when an unscrupulous distributor (Chrisoph Waltz) makes a play to bankrupt them and take over their operation, they devise their own plan for payback—by kidnapping his insufferably spoiled adult son (Chris Pine) for ransom.

Things go “horribly” wrong, of course—in more ways than one. The plot follows the same basic course as the first movie, down to some of the same exact gags. (Hey, they got a laugh the first time, right?) The humor is beyond bawdy—it’s super raunchy, and so blatantly offensive on so many levels, it almost seems admirable the filmmakers tried so hard to maintain such a consistent tone of tastelessness.

To call it “bathroom” humor demeans a lot of bathrooms, especially in one particular scene with a toothbrush, and in another when the discussion in a sexaholics support group turns to a topic that would be shocking even if it didn’t involve underage children.

Any guffaws these jokes get depend on just how far you think it’s OK to go for a laugh, and how closely you care to look at what you’re really laughing at. I’m not sure in what context a reference to the sexual assault of a hospital patient in a coma, for instance, would come off as funny—but here it’s played just that way.  

Horrible Bosses 2

Jamie Foxx

Jamie Foxx returns as a shady career criminal whose obscenity of a nickname can’t be printed in a newspaper but is repeated dozes of times in the movie, and whose flawed advice the would-be kidnappers once again seek.

The first time around, the bosses were terrible, but the movie wasn’t so bad. This time, the “new” bosses turn out to be awful, too, the movie is a disappointment, and the jokes may make you laugh…but you should feel guilty about it when you do.

-Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

Tagged , , , , , , ,