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Stockwell review: Lighten up with ‘Zootopia,’ ‘The Proposal’

One of the great things about the winter season is that curling up with a blanket and watching a movie is a wonderful way to relax and unwind. The two-for-the-show format, which has been a staple in my column, returns this week as we look at a pair of films that can be enjoyed from the sofa or a pillow-covered floor.

But first. A weasel walks into a bar and the bartender says, “Wow! I thought I had seen everything, but this is the first time I have ever served a weasel. What can I get you?”

“Pop” goes the weasel.

Just in case you were wondering, this year I resolved to use jokes that either tied into the time of year or the movie reviews I do. Luckily for you, this one goes with the latter.

“Zootopia” (2016)

Disney Studios’ 58th animated feature puts viewers in the titular city, a fictitious metropolis of 10 districts where animals live and work without the burden of humans. Their currency has deer on it, playing on the concept of a “buck,” as well as several puns of restaurant names in the real world.

Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) is the oldest child of Bonnie and Stu Hopps (voiced by Bonnie Hunt and Don Lake, respectively). Along with her 275 brothers and sisters, they live in Bunnyburrow as carrot farmers. Judy dreams of becoming the first bunny cop in Zootopia’s history. After finally succeeding at the police academy, she gets her big shot.

Once in the big city, she comes across a slick-talking, con fox named Nick Wilde (voiced by the extremely versatile Jason Bateman), and later uncovers a conspiracy that is turning the peaceable predators against the prey. Through diligence and resourcefulness, Judy and Nick figure out the plan, but will it be too late to save the day?

Without question, the film is deeply entertaining and fun for the whole family. The younger audience will love the colors and all the animals, but the older audience will be highly amused at the creative way that the three directors, Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush, not only take us to the city, but treat us to superlative voice casting.

Joining Goodwin and Bateman are Idris Elba (Chief Bogo), Jenny Slate (assistant mayor Bellwether), Nate Torrence (Clawhauser) and J.K. “We Are Farmers” Simmons (Mayor Lionheart), who all give outstanding, emotional performances. Of course, it is funnyman Tommy Chong’s Yax, whose brief screen time is downright hysterical, along with Alan Tudyk’s Duke Weaselton (see, I told you I would tie in the joke) that will leave you in stitches.

Honestly, the film’s story is much deeper than what is normally seen in an animated film, and that is refreshingly fantastic. Yes, there are plenty of puns (so you can see why it appeals to me), but the references to modern stereotypes will make for great post-viewing discussion.

At 108 minutes, it is one of the longer Disney films, but it will hold everyone’s attention regardless of age. A couple scenes might be a little intense for really young kids (it has a rare PG-13 rating), but overall, what a wonderful way to spend a couple hours in the evening after a day of sledding.

Obviously, Disney Plus has it, but you also can find it on Prime for $3.99.

“The Proposal” (2009)

Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds star in the "The Proposal," a rom-com hit.

Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds star in the “The Proposal,” a rom-com hit. (Photo provided/)

So, maybe you want a quiet evening at home with that special someone, snuggling under a weighted blanket (they are awesome by the way). Here is one for you.

Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock) is a hard-driving book publisher affectionately known to her staff as “the witch.” Her assistant (or secretary) is Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds), a young wannabe author who is trying to get into the editor’s office, and takes his lumps from Ms. Tate hoping to catch a break.

When a small issue of deportation is leveled at Margaret, she figures the only way to stay in her position is to marry an American – Andrew. Caught completely off guard and concerned about a federal prison sentence, he thinks it is a bad idea, but realizes his only option is to go along with the engagement to save his career. The couple travel to Andrew’s hometown of Sitka, Alaska, to meet the family and prove to the Immigration and Naturalization Service that it is really a true romance.

Without a doubt, this is an outstanding rom-com. Bullock and Reynolds are a modern-day odd couple, and the chemistry between the two off-screen friends is outstanding. Bullock is stern and hard as Tate, who, like many of Bullock’s characters, reveals a soft inside. Reynolds plays the timid, unassuming Andrew equally well, and as their relationship changes, so does his character. He is witty and charming, but also tender and caring.

The supporting cast is beyond exceptional. Craig T. Nelson and Mary Steenburgen are Andrew’s parents, and they truly make you believe they are married and dealing with their only son’s engagement as anyone’s parents would. Denis O’Hare is INS agent Gilbertson, and he is both direct and comical. Malin Akerman is Andrew’s former flame, Gertrude, who gives the character remarkable depth despite a short amount of screen time. It is, however, Betty White as Grandma Annie, who steals the show. Her comedic chops are seasoned and classic. It’s a crime she didn’t win an award for her performance.

Anne Fletcher directs the 108-minute film with style and grace, using the right amount of softness and timing that will have you laughing and crying and laughing until you cry. The ending is certainly a cliché, but that is why we watched it in the first place, isn’t it?

Prime has it for $3.99.

Seeing that the Bears are hibernating early this year, here’s a couple fun films to keep the winter blahs away. Until next time, enjoy the shows.

• Jim Stockwell is a tenured instructor of film and broadcast journalism at McHenry County College, teaching Introduction to Film, Advanced Film and Introduction to Public Speaking.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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