Movie Review: Zootopia

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A bunny cop must team up with a wily fox in order to solve some disappearances.

starsfour

Byron Howard, Rich Moore & Jared Bush, 2016

Small but determined, small-town bunny Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) becomes the first “prey” animal accepted into the Zootopia police force. When she arrives in the big city, however, she finds acceptance among the predators on the police force hard to come by. Determined to prove herself, Hopps meets the deceptively cunning fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman). When she’s assigned to a major case without the support of her fellow cops, Hopps needs Wilde’s help to track down the missing animals. They uncover dangerous secrets that expose people’s prejudices and threaten to tear apart the peaceful balance of Zootopia.

Zootopia-Poster

Zootopia is a rare kids’ movie that doesn’t talk down to its audience. It’s challenging, clever, and intriguing. Prejudice is a theme that’s often addressed with too heavy a hand in movies made for children, and a lot of nuance is lost in the dumbing down. Zootopia refuses to take that route, instead balancing sentiment with real-world consequences for prejudice. Not only that, but the characters in Zootopia all have to deal with their own prejudices in some way; Hopps, who experiences prejudice at the police station, then has to face her own biases head-on with the predator Wilde. Wilde, who for the most of the film comes across as a charming rogue, has a genuinely heartbreaking back story and a cool character arc. The only downside to its mature world view is that a lot of it goes over kids’ heads. The themes are explained well enough, but the jokes are frequently written or short visual gags that pass too fast for kids to see. There are also funny lines that get stepped on and missed, which is a shame.

The film also looks gorgeous. The animation is beautiful. Zootopia is an interesting world, vividly brought to life without becoming overstuffed with detail. The characters are lovingly drawn, and the voice performances work well. I was particularly impressed by Jason Bateman’s alternately charming, irritating, and world-weary work as Wilde. Idris Elba is also fantastic as the chief of police. Ginnifer Goodwin is cute but not exceedingly memorable as Hopps. I was disappointed by the gay-coded constantly eating fat leopard character – he was cute, but held up some disappointing tropes. Most of the other characters, though, have their own moments and feel like real denizens of this fictional world. They’re lovingly drawn, with cute character quirks to define many of them. The film suffers from a bit of a problem with its pacing – it builds up some nice tension and action before screeching to a halt for a while, which is frustrating. There are some hilarious scenes, though – the “nudist” yoga retreat is a hoot, but nothing tops the sloth DMV scene. I was nearly in tears from laughing so hard at that one. The film really works on the strength of its themes, though, tackling relevant, modern issues head-on without much filler. It’s a worthwhile film and a move in a positive direction for Disney.

Zootopia on IMDb

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