Movie reviews: Sing Street, Zootropolis, High-Rise

Sing Street 4/5

Movie reviews: Sing Street, Zootropolis, High-Rise

Set in Dublin in 1985, Sing Street (12A) stars Ferdia Walsh-Peelo as Cosmo, a teenager struggling to cope with the emotional and financial changes caused by his parents’ (Aiden Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy) straitened circumstances.

Desperate to establish a new, cool identity when he is sent to the inner-city school at Synge Street, Cosmo asks Raphina (Lucy Boynton) to star in his band’s music video — neglecting to mention that the band is a figment of his fertile imagination.

Written and directed by John Carney, Sing Street is a feel-good rom-com in the classic teen movie mould, as the indefatigable Cosmo marshals his ragtag gang of new friends into a pop band (imagine a teenage version of The Commitments) in order to woo the mysterious Raphina.

Naturally, there are many pitfalls along the way, and Carney gives 1980s Ireland its full gloomy due, with potential unemployment and almost certain emigration looming large over Cosmo’s efforts.

Even so, it’s a very funny script — Cosmo’s musical and fashion influences change from week to week, embracing The Clash, The Cure and Duran Duran, to name but a few — and on occasion even touching, as Cosmo’s burgeoning romance with Raphina is mirrored by his ‘bromance’ with his older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor), whose brusque ways disguise a heartfelt desire to see his young brother succeed where he failed.

Highlights include the ’80s soundtrack (with the movie’s original compositions as effective as any of the better-known tracks), Walsh-Peelo’s endearingly gauche turn as a boy on the cusp of manhood, and Don Wycherley’s performance as Brother Baxter, a priest utterly baffled by change as Ireland begins its long march towards enlightenment.

Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) has always dreamed of joining the police force in the big city of Zootropolis (PG), and the fact a bunny has never served with the police isn’t going to stop Judy — after all, Zootropolis, a place where animals of all shapes and sizes live together in harmony, is famous as the city ‘where anybody can be anything’.

When she finally gets her big break, however, Judy discovers Zootropolis is nowhere as welcoming as its advertising campaign might suggest: the city’s predators are reverting to evolutionary type, and have begun attacking the city’s gentler denizens.

Teaming up with con artist fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), Judy sets out to uncover the truth behind the predators’ bizarre behaviour.

Directed by Byron Howard, Jared Bush, and Rich Moore, the latest animation from Disney is a charming tale that fairly fizzes with energy and wit.

Judy is a delightfully feisty character who won’t let something as small as her diminutive stature get in the way of her achieving her dreams, and her character neatly dovetails with the sly, laidback fox (as Nick Wilde, Bateman’s insinuating drawl is pitch perfect).

There’s plenty of laugh-out loud gags, particularly when Judy and Nick visit an animal health spa and Judy is horrified to discover animals exercising naked, while the underworld’s Mr Big can hold its head up in the company of all the other The Godfather homage /spoofs you’ve seen over the years.

Woven around a timeless moral about tolerating difference, Zootropolis is heart-warming family-friendly fun.

Tom Hiddleston stars as Dr Robert Laing in Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of JG Ballard’s High-Rise (16s), which is set in a newly built apartment block in the 1970s.

The tower was ‘conceived as a crucible for change’ by its architect, Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons), and the story, presumably, was conceived as a satire of the social engineering behind the building of New Towns in England during the 1960s and 1970s.

Everything runs smoothly when Dr Laing first moves in, but once the shiny appliances start to fail and the system begins to break down, the social structure of the building also collapses, and soon anarchy is breaking out all over.

Hiddleston seems to drift through the story at one remove, observing events with such cold detachment you half-expect him to be revealed as an artificial intelligence spawned by the futuristic building, and only Luke Evans, playing the deranged Richard Wilder, manages to invest his character with anything approaching a recognisably appropriate emotional response to the chaos.

There is much to like in High-Rise, an aesthetically beautiful piece of work reminiscent of Terry Gilliam’s fables of doomed humanity, and it works best when Wheatley accentuates the darkly comic aspects of its comedy of manners. By the same token, the building’s inhabitants are portrayed from the start as a crew so eccentric it’s difficult to take them or their eventual downfall seriously.

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