March 12, 2016

Today I took my son and a group of rowdy 3rd graders to see Zootopia, Disney's hit movie about a community filled with animals of all types, coexisting in a modern day melting pot. I walked in, popcorn in hand, expecting your typical kids cartoon movie - cute animals, predictable plot lines, a villain or two, the good guy (or girl), funny jokes, action and a smattering of adult one liners. What I didn't expect was a movie filled with undertones of racism, classism, sexism and hints of police sexism and government conspiracies.

Driving home, I thought to myself "this is THE anti-Trump movie for kids." It is the movie that kids should see to counteract all the negative, nasty, vile, horrible things they are seeing or hearing about related to this election cycle, 99% of it coming from Trump and his supporters.

No matter how much we try to shield our kids from the news, the fact is they will hear about it. Either from their friends at school, at the grocery store or when you forget to turn the volume down on the late night news and their little ears overhear snippets of anchors talking about "violence at a rally tonight" or people getting arrested. It is so hard, even when you are being honest about the evil in the world, to teach your kids that deep down, we are all just human beings who deserve respect.

Without giving away too many spoilers, this movie has a female as a protagonist, a fluffy bunny named Judy who has to fight sexism (she is a female) to classism (she is from a small town) to try to live her dream of being a police officer in the big city of Zootopia, a nod to New York City. When she finally does make it, top of her class, she faces barriers at the ZPD and is automatically reduced to meter maid while the bigger, tougher males are given the "real" police work of catching bad guys. Through a series of interesting scenarios, Judy is able to prove to her superior (voiced by the amazing Idris Elba), that she may be able to do more than just type up parking tickets.

She links up with a wily fox who becomes her unwitting right hand man and they set off on a crime busting escapade. They must settle, first and foremost their roles in relation to each other - she as prey, him as predator. Prior to their current evolved status, he would have been the predator, but in current times, she is actually the predator as a police officer, he is the prey as a small time criminal.

They go on a long adventure which covers scenarios where both the media and the public witness currently evolved creatures turning "savage" and attacking their neighbors, the "prey." The public is terrified, the news media latches on and fuels the fire, and the government does little to stop it. I won't give up the major spoiler, but suffice to say, the government does not have clean hands in this scenario.

This is my first movie review, but I drove home feeling so incredibly overcome with joy that a major studio decided to tackle such heavy topics in a kids movie that I had to write about it. This movie was made before we knew just how much the Trump campaign would reinvigorate the hate speech in this country, a movement that I hope dies down soon. I cannot say this movie is without flaws, but overall it hit almost every topic with a nuanced delivery and a thought provoking plot line.

This movie is, in my opinion, the anti-Trump movie for kids and it is worth the $13 ticket, $5 soda and sticky floor. Take your kids, talk about the message in the car ride home. Your kids will learn more from this 2 hour movie than you think.

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