Saturday, March 12, 2016

Hoffs and Hopps

Is this a review of Disney's ZOOTOPIA? Yes, yes it is, but it's also an appreciation (I've been writing a lot of THOSE lately!) of the character that inspired the hero of the Mouse House's latest and greatest animated feature. Needless to say, Lt. Judy Hopps, an optimistic young rabbit who wants to join the predator-dominated police force of Zootopia, the city "where anyone can be anything," wouldn't be the same without Ginnifer Goodwin, better known as Snow White on ONCE UPON A TIME, to provide her voice, but there wouldn't be a character at all were it not for Sgt. Judy Hoffs, the lone woman on the squad on one of the FOX Network's first series, 21 JUMP STREET (1987-1991.) Like her long-eared, cotton-tailed offshoot, Hoffs, played by Holly Robinson (Peete), was also optimistic and innocent to a degree, although she was embroiled in decidedly different cases than Hopps, whose mission in ZOOTOPIA is to find many missing animals. Both ZOOTOPIA and JUMP STREET address the issues of stereotypes and racism (with ZOOTOPIA being timelier considering the current Presidential election season) and both Hoffs and Hopps have to prove themselves day-to-day to gain full acceptance.

Although Hopps is assigned to parking duty, she arrests a bandit named Duke Weaselton and is nearly fired until Mrs. Emmett Otterton produces a picture of her lost husband. Hopps convinces Chief Bogo (a water buffalo voiced by Idris Elba) to let her take the case, and he reluctantly agrees on the condition that if she can't solve the case in 48 hours, she'll have to surrender her badge. With her unlikely partner, a fox named  Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman), she is involved in an exciting chase set in what is, without a doubt, the most beautiful of Disney's many fantasy universes, and also the best planned, as it resembles an actual large metropolitan area more than those other universes. Some of the best performances include J.K. Simmons as Mayor Leodore Lionheart, Josh Dallas (Prince Charming on ONCE and in Ginny Goodwin's real life) as a frantic pig, Canadian news anchor Peter Mansbridge as Zootopia news anchor Peter Moosebridge,Jenny Slate as Assistant Mayor Bellwether, and pop star Shakira as pop star Gazelle. This movie also manages to send up cherished pop culture icons, many of them from Disney itself such as the movies FLOATSEN and MANGLED.

JUMP STREET also spoofed a lot of pop culture icons during its tenure on FOX, particularly in its funniest episode, "How I Saved The Senator." (If you have TiVO, put 21 JUMP STREET on your wish list or check it out on the Fourth Season box set!) A Senator is rescued from an assassination attempt at a high school lunch and a crusading reporter wants to know how the rescue was pulled off. In an episode reminiscent of the classic Japanese drama "Rashomon," each of the Jump Streeters has their own version of events, but the best one comes from Hoffs, who imagines herself as a Billie Holidayesque saloon singer who retrieves an accordion that was set to explode. (Appropos of ZOOTOPIA, one of her bandmates says ,"Hey, Doll, how's tricks?" She replies with a laugh, "TRIX ARE FOR KIDS!" How's THAT for a coinkydink?

The bottom line is, hop, skip, or JUMP down the STREET to a theatre near you to see ZOOTOPIA, and DON'T be vewwy vewwy quiet when everybody's laughing at THIS lovable wabbit! (Listen to the allusion to Disney's super hit "Let It Go!")

Speaking of goofing on contemporary topics, especially the current Presidential election season and the Republican front-runner in particular, good luck to the thespians at Congregation Emanu-El in NYC on their VERY contemporary Purim play. Break a leg, people! I hear it's gonna be YUGE!

Steve out!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Nancy Reagan: An Appreciation

Nancy Davis Reagan came into this world on the 5th of July, 1921, in Flushing, Queens, New York as Anne Francis Robbins.She moved to Maryland after her parents separated, but moved to Chicago when her mother remarried. Her Hollywood CV included THE NEXT VOICE YOU HEAR, DONOVAN'S BRAIN, and her first movie with her future husband Ronald Reagan, HELLCATS OF THE NAVY. They had two children together and she was the First Lady of California when her husband was the Governor from 1967 to 1975.

However, it will be for her work as the First Lady of the Nation during her husband's Presidential administration from 1981 to 1989 that she will be best remembered. She told children to "Just Say No" to drugs and yes to life and brought a certain sophistication back to the White House that had been missing when Jackie Kennedy Onassis moved out. During the current battle for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, it will also be remembered that she conducted herself with intelligence, wit, and decorum, three qualities which, unfortunately, are missing from both sides of the aisle.

In 1989, Nancy and Ron retired to their home in Bel Air, CA where she spent most of her later days caring for her husband, diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, until his passing in 2004. She continued to support the Reagan Library until Sunday, March 6, when she died of breast cancer. She leaves behind Patti and Ron Reagan and a gaping hole in the Nation's heart. We will always Just Say Yes to Nancy Reagan, and no biography, no matter how far-fetched its allegations, can make us feel otherwise.

I was going to end this with a promo for my upcoming serial, THIS HAPPY PLACE, but Nancy's departure making this world a less happy place makes it seem totally inappropriate.

Happy Trails, Nancy.