What It’s About
A magical, dynamic animated film that engages both adults and youngsters, “Zootopia” features a melting-pot metropolis that is as beckoning as Oz on the surface, but darker forces, a la Gotham, threaten to wreak havoc between predator and prey.
Enter plucky Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), who must prove her worth as the first bunny police officer. She’s the classic overachiever, whose can-do spirit will be severely tested. She must show imposing Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) that she is capable, strong and fearless.
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 55th film is a colorful kaleidoscope of remarkably lifelike anthropomorphic animal characters making their way in a highly civilized big city environment.
Clever — and classic overachieving — Disney animators layer humor suitable for children and appealing to adults, with sharp pop cultural references sprinkled throughout, from “Breaking Bad” to “The Godfather.”
Kudos to directors Rich Moore, responsible for some of the classic “The Simpsons” episodes like ‘Flaming Moe” and “Cape Fear,” and Byron Howard (“Tangled,” “Bolt”) for injecting a freshness to the story.
Points on diversity, female empowerment, friendship, loyalty, dreams and tolerance are made as vibrant animation brings heart and humor to the adventure. “You can be anything you want” is Judy’s sunny motto.
Her unlikely partner in solving a crime is Jack Wilde (Jason Bateman), a sly fox whose “you are what you are” belief will get tested. They pair up to crack a case that threatens the harmonious living conditions between the thoroughly modern mammals.
The vocal cast is superb, with Goodwin and Bateman endearing, and Elba and JK Simmons as Mayor Lionhart strong authoritative voices. Shakira has nice moments as the glamorous pop star Gazelle, and Tommy Chong is perfect as a shaggy Yak.
The bright Zootopia is dazzling in its scope — from ritzy Sahara Square to the wintry Tundra Town, and the landscapes and street scenes fascinate.
The sheer amount of detail — how lifelike the movements of many animals are, and the wide array of species — is wondrous. There is an ingenious scene of animals going au natural instead of wearing clothes, a nod to Disney critics ever since Mickey Mouse appeared on screen in shorts.
Michael Giacchino, Oscar-winning composer of “Up,” has scored his first Disney film after working with Pixar for many years, and the music a sunny delight, with a catchy pop song “Try Everything” poised for chart success.
I want to take it all in again, that’s how much is packed into the scenario.
What Doesn’t Work
It’s not too subtle as a message movie, but gets its points across effectively. The focus on living in harmony is one Disney can do well.
I’m not sure that the film will be understood by little tots, but there is a rich visual feast to partake of here.
- Directors: Rich Moore, Byron Howard
- Cast: (voices) Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Shakira, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Jenny Slate, Tommy Chong, Shakira and Octavia Spencer.
- Rated PG (some thematic elements, rude humor and action)
- 108 minutes