The Movie Diary
March 23, 2016

Don’t judge a book

By Dom Cioffi

A little over a year ago, I overheard my niece and her friend talking about their desire to get tattoos when they turned 18. They were boasting about the different designs they were considering and how each body emblem would have a unique, deeply personal meaning.

I listened intently to their teenage rational and “worldly” justifications until I simply couldn’t take it anymore, at which point I forcefully interjected my opinion.

I begged the girls to practice temperance and not to jump on the tattoo bandwagon too quickly. “So many kids run out and ink themselves up without much thought and then spend the rest of their lives regretting it,” I argued.

I went on to explain that while I wasn’t against the art of tattooing, I felt the decision should be weighed heavily due to the permanence factor.

I even went so far as to tell them that if I had tattooed the most personal thing in my life when I was 18, that I would have a brick pattern of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” on my left shoulder. And while I still consider it to be one of my all-time favorite albums, having that image permanently inked onto my body would have me feeling a bit foolish today.

Unfortunately, she and her friend giggled with every statement I made and brushed aside every bit of wisdom I offered. I eventually walked away from the conversation completely frustrated, unable to shed any revealing light onto either of their artistic desires.

Needless to say, on the day that my niece turned 18, she went straight to the tattoo parlor and plopped down a couple hundred dollars to have her creative vision realized. And within several months she added a couple more tattoos to go along with her countless body piercings and purple hair.

Hearing this brought me pause, but eventually, like my brother and sister-in-law, I gave up trying to change her mind. My niece is her own person and now that she’s over 18, she has every right to be who she wants to be. And I have to remember that the girl inside that funky exterior is kind, smart and full of joy, and whenever those traits are present, it’s hard to argue to change much.

Things took an interesting turn this past fall when it came time for my niece to attend college. My brother called to inform me that his daughter had not only applied to live in a coed dorm, but had also applied to live in a coed room.

“Let me get this straight,” I said. “She’s going to live in one room with a guy – who she doesn’t know?”

While I wasn’t totally surprised by her decision, I did question the rationale. I mean, I was a freshman boy and I was fairly clean and well kempt, but I still doubt any girl would have wanted to live with me. God forbid she ended up with a typical smelly teenager who wasn’t skilled in personal hygiene.

“Don’t worry,” my brother explained. “I think it’s going to work out just fine.”

He then texted me a picture of the guy who she had chosen as her roommate. I don’t want to say that he was the male version of my niece, but he did have one visible tattoo, a couple obvious piercings and bright green hair.

“Huh?” I thought. “I guess that’s a match made in heaven.” Except now I was worried about a whole other host of potential dangers revolving around two teenagers living together.

Interestingly, a couple months after the semester began, my brother relayed to me that the living arrangement had not worked out as planned. It seems that while my niece and her roommate were near clones on a physical level, they were unfortunately polar opposites on an intellectual and behavioral level. The two had become mortal enemies, which eventually led to my niece relocating to an apartment with a couple of new girlfriends.

And just like that, all was right with the world again.

In this week’s feature, “Zootopia,” we visit a different kind of animal world where predators and prey live together in peaceful harmony, but where unseen forces are plotting to dramatically change things.

With themes of prejudice and stereotyping, “Zootopia” quietly delves into a number of social issues in a way that will intellectually excite adults and gleefully entertain children.

It’s rare for me to recommend an animated film to an adult without a child in tow, but I promise you that anyone who attends this film, regardless of age, will be thoroughly pleased. This is the rare combination of visual spectacle and masterful storytelling.

In fact, let it be known that Pixar is no longer the sole top dog in the world of digital animation. “Zootopia” is on par with the best offerings from Pixar and certainly ranks as one of the genre’s premiere selections, firmly reestablishing Walt Disney Studios as the team to beat in full-length feature animation.

A primal “A-” for “Zootopia.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

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