THE BUSHES IN FRONT OF THE apartment building offered me ideal cover. I was leading the group on a treasure hunt. Our course was going to take us through hostile territories; I was prepared for the known hazards, but not for the unknown ones. Sneaking out of the bushes, we made our way south by staying off the main thoroughfares. The path I took was uneven, filled with potholes and covered with a mix of unkempt grass and gravel. As we came up to a large building, I had everyone cling to the side of the road where at least there was sporadic cover in case we were walking into a trap. It was the right call because 3 trap doors in the building sprung open and a series of time bombs were being hurled at us. My monkey who was 2ndin command leaped to a nearby tree and scurried up into the branches for cover. From my vantage point I could see him navigating the branches as he made his way to the one branch that was leaning over to the structure. I saw him take a few sticks of dynamite and tape them together. He then lit them and tossed it onto the roof of the building. I only had to wait a few seconds before there was a big explosion that caused the roof to cave in and bury our enemies. WHAT YOU JUST READ WAS ONE of many escapades I had with my entourage of imaginary animals. Besides my trusted monkey, I had a tiger, hawk, panther, wolf and chipmunk as part of my group. All these characters came to the forefront of my imagination after I started reading the books about Doctor Doolittle. The stories about the good doctor were some of my favorite ones when I was growing up. I identified with him because I felt I too could talk to animals; though, I was a novice at understanding them. But that did not stop me from talking to my pet parakeet and the animals several of my relatives had as pets. My conversations were not just exclusive to live animals, it also incorporated the stuffed animals I had gotten through my infant years as gifts. Animals were so easy to talk to and they provided me with hours of comfort. Due to this history when I saw the trailer for this film, I immediately knew I had to see it. Seeing one of my favorite book characters come to life was going to be a big thrill for me. THOUGH DOCTOR DOOLITTLE, PLAYED BY ROBERT Downey Jr. (Avengers franchise, The Judge), had not ventured outside of his home for several years, when the Queen of England summoned him to the palace he could not refuse. His visit would be the start of an incredible adventure. With Antonio Banderas (The Skin I Live In, Pain and Glory) as King Rassouli, Michael Sheen (The Twilight Sage franchise, The Queen) as Dr. Blair Mudfly, Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady, Gangs of New York) as Lord Thomas Badgley and Harry Collett (Dunkirk, Casualty-TV) as Tommy Stubbins; this adventure, family comedy belonged in a litter box. I know I may have been more invested in this film than others; however, nothing was right about this picture except the animals. I had a hard time understanding Robert’s character due to his quiet mumbling of the words with an odd accent. The script had nothing fun or exciting in it. I felt the writers just threw a bunch of animals into the script to add some slapstick to the dull story. Maybe young viewers will enjoy this movie; but for the young of heart, there would be better enjoyment found if one read the books instead. There was an extra scene during the ending credits.
1 ½ stars
IT OCCURRED TO ME THAT I was watching different groups in this movie, with origins that spanned the globe, working together as one. There weren’t any indications of dislike, envy or hatred; in fact, it seemed as if their differences enhanced their capabilities to do good. They all had different physical differences. Some were darker, some were smaller, some had both dark and light color mixed in them and it did not matter. What a world they were living in where these things had no bearing on one’s feelings. I would have enjoyed experiencing the world they were living in. Those that were quite big were not picked on or made fun of, unlike my own past experiences. One was handicapped, and it appeared to me no one treated them different from anyone else. If I had seen this as a kid, I would have been surprised because of what I saw growing up. There was a student in class who had a health condition, something to do with their blood, that prevented her from participating in any physical activity. This student was shunned by other students; they considered her weird. Granted, they did not know the details of her situation; but, why did they immediately choose to treat her different was perplexing to me. RELIVING THESE MEMORIES MAKES ME NOW wonder if humans have an inherit tendency to shy away from others that are different or is it something that must be taught. Isn’t that a frightening thought if adults have been handing down that fear to their offspring. Based on what I have been seeing and hearing presently, it seems as if more people are less tolerate of those they perceive to be different. Because of the differences between us, I feel we are seeing more conflicts around the world. People are fighting and arguing for the simple reason they cannot accept someone being different. It does not matter if it is politics or religion or lifestyle; there is a pack mentality that gets formed where people only want to live with their own kind. I am saddened by what I read in the newspapers. Young adults are being killed because they dress and act different than what is “expected” of them. It is horrific, and it is wrong. So much more can be accomplished when the participants come from different backgrounds, to bring their unique skills to the forefront. Maybe those that do not believe me should take a look and see what the different animals in this animated, adventure comedy accomplish by working together. A WHOLE DIFFERENT WORLD AWAITS MAX and Duke, voiced by Patton Oswald (Young Adult, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) and Eric Stonestreet (The Loft, Modern Family-TV), when their family takes a vacation out in the country. How will Max handle so many new experiences? With Kevin Hart (Night School, The Upside) voicing Snowball, Harrison Ford (The Age of Adaline, Raiders of the Lost Ark franchise) voicing Rooster and Jenny Slate (Obvious Child, Gifted) voicing Gidget; this sequel came with its own built in charm. If you enjoyed the 1st film, you will enjoy watching this picture. The humor was fun, and the animation added to it. The children in the audience certainly were having a good time watching this movie. Now it appeared to me the movie studio did not want to deviate from the winning formula of the past film; however, by doing so there really was not anything new in this sequel. I thought there were too many story lines taking place at the same time. But here is the thing though, it did not take away my enjoyment from seeing what was happening in the story. Though there was nothing new with the characters, I liked seeing the way they worked together to tackle issues. Now if only they could teach humans that lesson.
2 ½ stars
AS A CHILD I HAD A MENAGERIE of literary animals for pets. There was Old Yeller, Stuart Little, Peter Rabbit and Black Beauty to name a few. Among all these friends I had Doctor Dolittle on call just in case there was an emergency. There was always room for another animal to join my group, which explains why I made frequent trips to the library. Looking across the bookshelves, I would read every title on the shelves. With any title that sounded intriguing to me, I had to pull the book out to investigate and see if the story involved an animal. It did not matter what species; if there was mention of an animal, whether it was a pet or in the wild, I would check out the book. A fond memory of mine was seeing a movie that was based on a book I had read. Seeing Black Beauty or Lassie on the big or small screen was like a dream come true for me. And speaking of Lassie, when I was real small any collie I saw I immediately thought was Lassie. When they would not come up to me after calling her name, I would be sad. MY LOVE OF ANIMALS STAYED WITH me as I grew up. The pets my friends and relatives had were my surrogate pets. I could spend hours playing with a dog or cat. The other thing I would do was to simply follow and watch them. There are so many memories I have involving animals; each one as vivid today as when they were first formed. One of my oldest memories was going to a small zoo in a neighborhood park. There were only 8 or 9 different animals in it. I remember holding on to a railing in front of the cage and holding a marshmallow up in the air to get a bear to stand on its hind legs. The first time the bear stood up I went wild with excitement. I immediately deemed the bear my pet and would always go to its cage first before going to any of the other animals. I am certain many of us have fond memories revolving around animals. With so many stories having been done I cannot imagine non-animal lovers not knowing a few of them, at least. And now adding to our list of animal favorites comes Bella out of this adventure family film. HOME WAS A SPECIAL PLACE THAT Bella, voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard (Pete’s Dragon, Jurassic World franchise), knew all too well. That is why she could not give up on her 400-mile journey to get back home. With Jonah Hauer-King (Postcards from London, Little Women-TV) as Lucas, Alexandra Shipp (Straight Outta Compton; Love, Simon) as Olivia, Ashley Judd (Double Jeopardy, Heat) as Terri and Edward James Olmos (Blade Runner, Stand and Deliver) as Axel; this movie had a built-in cute factor due to Bella. It would be hard not to enjoy watching Bella and the animals she encountered in her life; however, cuteness can only go for so long. The entire production here came off a bit amateurish. The script was predictable as it periodically set up scenes to pull at the viewers’ heartstrings. The acting seemed stilted to me, to the point I preferred watching Bella when there were no humans around. The main issue about this picture was how generic it was in telling a story that has been done so many times before and better. This is not something you have to run out and go see; especially since there were a couple of scenes that I felt would be scary for younger children. I fell in love with Bella, but she deserved a better movie to star in than this one.
One would think we have gone beyond stereotypes; but I still get “that look” in people’s faces when in conversation, if it comes up, I mention my primary doctor is a woman. That look could be made up by a furled brow, downturned lips, maybe one side of the upper lip rising up in a sneer or even rolling eyes; it is so strange to me. When did it become the norm for someone to foist their prejudices onto someone else? Through my life I have been the victim from a variety of biases. There was a person who wanted to know if I celebrated Thanksgiving. When I said yes and asked why they asked, the person told me she did not know if people from my religion celebrated the holiday. I had to tell her Thanksgiving was an American holiday not a religious one. Possibly I mentioned before how one of my elementary teachers told me I would not amount to anything if I decided to pursue writing as a career. Discrimination was and still is a cancerous attribute in humankind. The thing that scares me the most is seeing those individuals who are proud of their prejudices. Granted you tend to know exactly what to expect from someone who does not cover up their biases. However, there is a completely different level that has more subtly to it. Now it occurs to me if you are starting to wonder if this animated movie is as serious as tonight’s topic the answer is yes; but it is mixed inside of a fun, action adventure film. JUDY Hopps, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin (Walk the Line, Once Upon a Time-TV), was the first bunny on Zootopia’s police force. Her boss Chief Bogo, voiced by Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, Thor franchise), took one look at her and decided she could only issue parking tickets. The only way Judy could prove herself was to take on a dangerous case that she had to solve in 2 days time or lose her job. I was so surprised by this picture; it took me a short time to realize there was an intelligent, inclusive script that still provided fun and excitement. If one expects singing and dancing in this animated movie they will be disappointed since there was none. However, all ages will find enjoyment in watching this film. As for the actors chosen to voice the characters, it was brilliant casting by the movie studio. With Jenny Slate (Obvious Child, Bob’s Burgers-TV) as Bellwether and Jason Bateman (The Gift, This is Where I Leave You) as Nick Wilde, I have to say Jason was outstanding. He and his character were literally the same, that is how good he was in the role. So to finish up, this movie has an important message that everyone should take the opportunity to see and have fun doing it. Do not be surprised if you come out being more diligent in celebrating the differences in all of us.
3 1/2 stars