Zootopia (A-). The latest animated offering from Disney is a delight. In a world with no humans, all the other mammals have evolved a technological (and very human-seeming) civilization. Miraculously, predators and prey now live together in peace and harmony. But species-based stereotyping is still a problem, and when rabbit Judy Hopps decides that she wants to become the first rabbit police officer in the great city of Zootopia, she sends cultural shockwaves throughout the department. The visuals of the city and its many citizens are great, and Judy herself is completely adorable. Outstanding voicework by Ginnifer Goodwin (He’s Just Not That Into You) as Judy and by Jason Bateman (Couples Retreat) as a shifty fox on the make also contribute greatly to the success of the movie. Plenty of other celebrities also contribute vocals, including Idris Elba (Thor) and Shakira. Check it out!
Something Borrowed (F). OK, I wasn’t expecting Citizen Kane here. Romantic comedy is hard, and precious few romantic comedies are any good. But this one was truly horrendous in its own special way. Ginnifer Goodwin (He’s Just Not That Into You), who is a very cute actress and may have some talent, plays Rachel, a 30-year-old lawyer whose best friend Darcy (Kate Hudson, Nine) is about to marry Dexter (Colin Egglesfield, Must Love Dogs), who is handsome and comes from a hugely wealthy family. Problem is, Rachel has been in love with Dex since law school, but the horrificly obnoxious Darcy stole Dex right away from her. So naturally, two months before the wedding, after Rachel’s 30th-birthday party, Rachel and Dex go back to her place and misbehave because it turns out he’s also in love with her. In the real world, I expect such a turn of events would end Rachel and Darcy’s friendship but at least avoid the tragedy of a misconceived marriage. But in Hollywood, it’s an excuse for 90 more minutes of increasingly painful scenes contrived to keep Rachel and Dex apart, Darcy in the dark, and the wedding plans on. It’s hard to say whether the characters’ vulgarity or their stupidity is more painful to endure. Poor John Krasinski (TV’s The Office) has a thankless, not to say humiliating, role as Rachel’s (and supposedly Darcy’s) pal Ethan. Avoid this movie at all costs.
He’s Just Not That Into You (D). And let me say up front that there will be some general spoilers in this review–nothing too specific, but enough that you might prefer to skip it.
Anyway, I am not too into chick flicks, and the generally mediocre reviews did not make me particularly want to see this one. (Jennifer Aniston, We’re the Millers, is in it, which is a warning sign right there.) But then I read a review by a fellow named Ross Douthat that piqued my curiosity. He entitled his review “The Way We Live Now,” and he thought the film was interesting for its unusually unflattering look at the “essentially Darwinian” nature of modern dating. Being fairly out of touch with that scene myself, I went to see what he was talking about. The movie’s large cast of well-known actresses and perhaps less well-known actors wheel around each other in various combinations. There’s a married couple, a long-time couple in which the guy “doesn’t believe in marriage,” and a bunch of other folks who want to be in couples but can’t seem to manage it. The protagonist, Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin, Walk the Line), is a perky young thing who is so desperate to get attached that she will basically stalk a guy after a single mediocre date, somehow not realizing that this is the worst possible strategy she could devise. A friendly bartender (Justin Long, Drag Me to Hell) breaks the earth-shattering news to her (repeatedly) that a guy’s bad behavior (or his mere failure to call) should be taken at FACE VALUE. Also, ladies should not place more significance on vague “signs” that a guy is interested than on his open and wanton neglect. Also, do not base your dating strategy on a legend that your cousin’s friend’s college roommate found true love after chasing, or putting up with unmitigated crap from, some guy for umpteen years.
All of this seemed reasonably honest to me. So did a sordid subplot about a tawdry adultery. I may not have liked these people, but I believed what I was seeing. The kick in the teeth came at the end, when the movie abandoned the honest-feeling stuff and started dropping happy endings on us like anvils. Not every character got one, admittedly — a few were left out in the cold. But some characters underwent ridiculous changes of heart to bring about the desired Hollywood endings, and the wrap-ups generally trashed the seemingly solid advice previously dispensed by the affable bartender. Apparently Hollywood suspects that we can stand only so much truth about “the way we live now,” and then we have to be cheered up with happy endings, no matter how phony. The movie chickened out of the hard truths it had worked so hard to establish, and it made me mad. Skip it.