The latest Disney animated movie Zootropolis (AKA Zootopia in the States) is an utter gem which continues a fine run of form for the studio in recent years. It works as a hugely entertaining family film packed with adventure and laughs, set in a gorgeous, inventive world and manages to touch on some more serious issues. It’s a film that works for the whole family and I loved it.
Set in a world of anthropomorphic mammals who have set aside their former predator and prey instincts to live in harmony much of the action takes place in the eponymous city, which is designed to cater for all the different animals. With old instincts pushed aside the message is that anyone can be anything.
A strong believer in this is Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) a small town bunny who realises her dream of being a police officer, the first rabbit officer in the force. Idealistic and eager she is disappointed when her superior officer Bogo (Idris Elba) puts her on parking duty, while there are several unsolved missing mammal cases she could help with.
Judy’s first day goes well until she helps Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) a fox. She helps him out but discovers later that he is a hustler who played her, and his cynical attitude dampens her spirits and leaves her questioning her decision to move to the city.
On parking duty again she chases a thief who has stolen flower bulbs from a florist and gives chase, apprehending the suspect but receiving a reprimand from Bogo. When the wife of a missing otter talks to Bogo, Judy interrupts and offers to find him. Bogo gives her 48 hours after which she has to resign if unsuccessful.
There is very little to go on, but a clue links the missing otter to Nick, so Judy tracks him down and using a recording and the threat of prison, blackmails him into helping her. They begin to investigate, finding a trail which leads them to the mob, and then onwards to a secret facility where the missing animals are imprisoned, all having gone savage. This is being kept hidden by Mayor Lionheart (J.K. Simmons).
Why are the animals regressing to their beastly roots? Is someone responsible, and why? And what does it mean for Zootropolis’ peaceful way of life?
I loved this movie because it manages to mix elements of a buddy movie with a film noir style plot of corruption and conspiracy, and keeps the jokes flowing throughout. The plot is smart, and while one big reveal is easy to spot for the grownups, it’s still an involving story, and it unfolds at a decent pace with the trail being built by our heroes.
The characters are great, especially the central duo of Judy and Nick. Judy’s optimism at the start could grate, but it’s to the credit of the writers and Goodwin’s performance that it doesn’t. She’s an idealist and has a moment of doubt, but she’s shown early on to be nobody’s fool and her drive and smarts make her a likeable and engaging heroine.
It helps that she has Bateman’s roguish Nick to bounce off, and the verbal sparring between the two is fantastic. That this develops into friendship and affection isn’t surprising, but the scenes between the two fizz and crackle with energy and humour.
They spark off each other well and as the movie progresses they both start to change each other, and develop into a decent crime fighting duo.
The rest of the characters work well too, with Elba doing well as the traditional grumpy police chief.
Some are a little one note but they all work, especially Tommy Chong’s hippie yak, the mob boss Mr. Big and Flash (Raymond S. Persi) a comically slow sloth.
There are also some cute sight gags from the cityscape of different animals and it drew repeated “aww” sounds from MWF.
The story moves along at pace and the characters are fun and entertaining, but it’s the film’s themes which were a pleasant surprise. Stereotyping, prejudice and mob mentality are all issues that arise and it’s good to see a kid’s film that addresses these. At the start Judy is the victim of stereotyping, dismissed as a dumb, cute bunny, but despite questioning her parents for their narrow minded views she unwittingly shows the same later, in regards to Nick and others. The difference is that when she realises her mistake, she tries to change and this is an important thing.
The plot hinges on making a section of the population the enemy, demonised so that the majority have a force to work against, even if it means that innocent animals are victims along the way. As Donald Trump and the media demonise Muslims, it’s good to see a kid’s film that shows you can’t judge an entire group on a few bad eggs and that the poor treatment of the innocent is always wrong. It’s a good message for kids, and the movie does it without hammering it home too heavily.
In summary, this is a cracking family film which will entertain all ages and which combines character, humour and adventure to great effect. Disney are on a roll, and long may it continue.
Verdict: Fun, smart and gorgeous, this is a great family film with a simple, involving plot a great heroic duo and which touches on some important issues without losing sight of the fun. Wonderful. 8/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.