Film Review – ‘Zootopia’ (2016)

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Zootopia poses the age-old question: Can predators and prey live harmoniously?

Maybe that’s not something on everyone’s mind but it’s the question posed in Disney’s new film. Establishing predator vs. prey is the conduit to a much deeper and relevant message posed by the film.

Look at the world we live in today. Protests and racial tensions, looting and senseless violence all caused by the unaccepting of differences. Zootopia is Disney’s answer to #AllLivesMatter. We all don’t look the same – and neither do the talking animals in the film – but that doesn’t mean we can’t live together.

Front and center is Judy Hopps (Ginnfer Goodwin). For as long as she could remember, Judy has dreamed of being a police officer, with the hopes of making the world a better place. She is laughed at for being a girl and a small bunny but never lets her naysayers keep her down. She finally joins the ZPD – Zootopia Police Department – and is put on traffic duty on her first day. Not exactly what Judy had in mind, but she gives it her all.

On her first day she meets a shifty, con artist fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman). While all predators are looked down upon in Zootopia, foxes seem to be the ultimate pariah. Judy catches onto Nick’s schemes and follows him throughout the day. Before they know it, Judy and Nick actually have to work together to uncover a mystery in Zootopia. Fourteen different predators have gone missing but the unlikely duo are determined to crack the case.

Zootopia is that perfect film for parents and children alike. The characters are colorful and vibrant and there is enough references to keep the adults entertained. There are winks at movies like The Godfather and TV’s Breaking Bad, which children will obviously not get but the grown-ups can enjoy. It’s always good for an animated film to strike that balance to keep the whole family entertained.

The voice cast is uniformly great. Goodwin and Bateman have the majority of the screen time but the familiar sounds of Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, J.K. Simmons and Octavia Spencer pop-up throughout.

The movie was constructed with great care and thought. The directing team, Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush, have crafted the intricate world of Zootopia and their lengthy writing team (there are several screenplay and story by credits) wanted to make more than just another animated film. They aren’t shy about conveying their message but it’s a message we continually need to hear.

As an allegory of how we live today, Zootopia might go above the heads of the young ones in the crowd. But, hey, if it helps them be nicer on the playground at school, Zootopia will have been a major accomplishment.

Rating: 8 out 10

 

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