Disney rarely misses when fusing kid-friendly story lines with thoughtful adult concepts. Their latest animated movie, Zootopia, is no exception. With a relatable, predictably adorable cast of anthropomorphic characters, a contemporary setting involving social inequality, and a truly hilarious delivery, you’ll find it hard to harbor any cynicism towards this film. Believe me, I am well versed in the art of cynicism, and I had a big dorky grin on my face throughout the entire run time.
Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a rabbit from a small farming town with dreams of becoming a law enforcement officer in Zootopia, the metropolis built as a unifying location for both prey and predatory animals to live in harmony. This proves difficult for Judy, who has to deal with being an undersized, weak kid who’s strong ideals are tested when her life’s work pays off and she is thrust into the “real” world full of archaic societal norms that seem less than fair. On her first day at work, she is ordered to enforce parking laws and runs into con-fox Nick Wylde (Jason Bateman). Nick shows Judy some ugly truths about her new home and ends up teaming up with the bunny to help stop a complex conspiracy intended to frame predators as violent criminals. **Hint Hint, this is where you may identify some real world parallels that the writers injected into the script.**
The cast stars some other surprisingly talented voice actors like Idris Elba, JK Simmons, Jenny Slate and Shakira to name a few. Whatever Disney did to capture the voices for this film was spot on, as each character seems more emotive and believable than any other animation I can remember. This could be thanks to the fact that the takes seem to be added to the film with vocal faults intact. Some takes from the larger animals sound guttural and deep, while the smaller animals have a distinctly more tepid presence, with small cracks and squeals coming at natural points in conversation. The sound truly does help make this film.
Visually, Zootopia is beautiful, as is to be expected from a Disney flick. They continue perfecting the reactive fur movements from their mammalian players, and they consistently present bright, beautiful colors without ever getting harsh on the eyes or over the top.
The story is done without being gauche about its concept. It doesn’t beat you over the head with ideology or opinion, but gives an elegant take on a tough subject. I don’t expect many children will absorb this complex narrative, but it remains funny and lovable enough to maintain anyone’s attention.
My only gripe about the film is that I thought it could have been a bit longer to better hash out the more difficult character developments, but this is a film targeted for families, and the running time reflects that.
Conclusion: Go see it. This is a surprisingly well-timed US release, and Disney made a stunning film even without considering its deeper plot.