Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush
Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Jenny Slate, Idris Elba, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Tommy Chong, J.K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer
Every year I look forward to the new movie from the Walt Disney Animation Studios. It’s as if you are guaranteed a good time at the movies. Their new film, Zootopia, is no different. The idea of predator and prey living in harmony where anyone can be anything seems to be the ideal image for a young bunny named Judy Hopps (Goodwin). Ever since she was a little bunny she was bound and determined to be a cop in the world of Zootopia where mammals of all species roam free and carry out their everyday lives of going to work and raising a family. Judy’s parents (Hunt and Lake) break the news to her that no bunny has ever been a cop in the history of Zootopia. Fifteen years pass and she joins the police academy. She moves out of her bunny village to live in District 1, the inclusive downtown district. Her first day in the academy brings out the reality that she is by far the smallest animal among the fellow students that are comprised of bears, rhinos, and lions, etc… When all of the other students are offered the cool, important cases, Judy is stuck being a lousy meter maid and in turn is ridiculed by the other cops. Her days as a beginning cop take a turn for the better when she is given 48 hours to find a missing otter. Her excitement and determination are kicked into high gear in order to prove herself to the rest of the academy. She turns to a sly fox named Nick Wilde (Bateman) to help her with the case as he may have intel on the victim’s whereabouts.
Disney has been in a creative resurgence the last couple of years. All of their films have taken on a different approach and genre from superheroes (Big Hero 6), video games (Wreck-It Ralph), and re-imagined princess tales (Tangled, Frozen). Zooptopia is their take on a “who-done-it” style mystery with a spunky bunny as its lead. Ginnifer Goodwin (the star of Disney’s TV show Once Upon a Time) has a sweet adorable quality that she brings to Judy. To counter her is Jason Bateman as Nick Wilde, the shifty fox. Seems like perfect casting in my opinion. I don’t mean that as a slam to Bateman, but he’s great in these types of untrustworthy types of roles. Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, J.K. Simmons, and Octavia Spencer also lend their voices. Slate is especially funny as the little sheep, Bellwether, who is eager to help Judy get to the bottom of it all.
With any good movie aimed at children, it usually comes with a message at hand. Sometimes they are a bit subtler than others. Zootopia makes its messages loud and clear right from the very first scene. If you hadn’t caught on yet, the title of the movie is a play on the concept of Thomas More’s utopia where a community lives in perfection and is principled on equality. The themes of inclusivity, discrimination, and the dangers of stereotypes all reside in Zootopia. It seems especially timely as our news is filled with stories about Black Lives Matters and other hate crimes regarding sexuality and religion. Judy Hopps struggles with the idea that not all of the species get along swimmingly. She is warned by her parents to stay away from foxes, as they can be dangerous. Even Nick Wilde believes he needs to live up to that stereotype about foxes. Judy wants to break down these walls and have everyone live in harmony.
Despite the heavier, more adult themes, the film makes them accessible for kids to understand. It has a silly and playful tone at the same time for young moviegoers as they follow along with Judy’s quest to become a bunny cop. I always love when Disney and Pixar take it to the next step by loading their movies with plenty of laughs for adults. There are multitudes of jokes that will surely go over children’s heads. There is one particular scene where Judy and Nick go to a DMV. The writers depict how slow it can be by having it employed by sloths. It’s given away in the trailer, but I couldn’t stop laughing. Kids won’t understand why that’s so funny, but any adult who has had to wait for their number to be called at the DMV will surely get a good belly laugh out of this scene. Per usual, there are references to other Disney movies, but also The Godfather and Breaking Bad. Just two more jokes that will fly over kids heads.
Zootopia is another strong achievement for Disney. Byron Howard (Tangled), Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph), and Jared Bush share directing credits. Bush co-wrote it with Phil Johnston. Their credits are further proof that Disney needs to keep on this trajectory as they are currently in their best creative output since the 90s era. The animation is wildly imaginative with the variety of animals and towns that make up Zootopia. It will have the whole family laughing and hopefully provides some wonderful discussions on lessons that can be hard to tackle.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Disney continues its strong string of hits.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS