Byron Howard, Rich Moore / Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate / Comedy / 2016 / PG / 108mins
Disney break new ground with this drastically modern metaphor for racial and cultural tension, with a side portion of comedy gold and loveable characters to soften the serious moral vibes.
The daughter of a country carrot farmer, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) dreams of becoming the first rabbit cop. Her ambitions pay off and Judy gets assigned to Zootropolis, the metropolitan capital of this animal-only universe. Trouble is afoot when 14 predators go missing, but Judy and her reluctant conman partner Nick (Jason Bateman) are on the case.
The decades long Disney aneurysm has ceased: a strong leading lady, a bunny that kicks ass, a leading man that isn’t a love interest… oh, and a casual metaphor for racial hatred and xenophobia. Disney sure know how to convert contemporary issues into big bucks (a little Trump never hurt the bank vaults). Thankfully for us, it’s handled rather well. Zootropolis is an absorbing and fun story that doesn’t take it’s foot off the pedal for a second. It’s well paced and has few plot holes – it’s what’s expected of a family film, but is surprisingly hard to come by.
Loveable characters make all the difference, and Judy, Nick and the rest of the crew fit the bill perfectly. You could argue they’re flat and stereotypical but that’s the point. This is a satire intent on breaking the very moulds it uses – it’s very form. Post-modern, maaan.
Goodwin and Bateman are delightful in their lead roles. They never exaggerate beyond necessity and maintain a distinctive persona. Others don’t really have a presence. Idris Elba’s Chief Bogo is appropriately butch but underused. Mayor Lionheart (JK Simmons, no less) is a clear red herring. Disappointingly, Jenny Slate’s Bellwether is not sinister to any degree. A subtle hint, or overdriven finale, would have sufficed. As the villain, you really expect more from a Disney film. It’s a failed experiment, but I’m glad there’s a breath of fresh air.
Most important of all, the jokes keep flowing. This is no princess fairy tale, so a clinical script was essential to make amends for the hardcore fans. In comparison to other contemporaries, the animation is lacking the vivid realism seen in the likes of The Good Dinosaur or Finding Dory. Worst of all, to my great disdain, Shakira’s song is average at best. Other than that, Zootropolis is a thoroughly worthwhile film.
As good as any Pixar flick and one of the best Disney films this century: Zootropolis has been crafted to perfection. It’s a blockbuster worth it’s weight in gold and a film you could easily watch again and again.
Film as a Film – 3 / Target Audience – 5 / General Audience – 4
Zootropolis is available on DVD and On Demand Services
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