Zootropolis (also known as Zootopia) (2016)
Starring (the voices of): Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J. K. Simmons
Directors: Byrin Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush
The city of Zootropolis is full of animals of all types who live and thrive together having long overcome the predator/prey lifestyle of their ancestors. When Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) becomes the first rabbit to join the police force, she becomes determined to prove herself, jumping at the opportunity to solve a mysterious case of missing animals. Unfortunately, that means working with hustler Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a wily fox who makes her job even harder.
Disney and talking animals. We’ve seen this before. Robin Hood featured a talking, clever fox. We had a mega-cute rabbit in Bambi. Then there was The Lion King. Why should we watch another Disney talking animal film?
Short Answer- Because it is brilliant.
And now a longer answer;
The crew behind Zootropolis have crafted a wonderful, twisting story that hits the themes of prejudice, trust and friendship while simultaneously looking superb and entertaining Disney’s target audience- families. The story is told primarily from the point of view of Judy Hopps, who leaves her farm behind to zoom to the city of Zootropolis as the first ever bunny police officer. Despite the tolerance shared between animals there is a hint of racial prejudice cleverly disguised from the youngest viewers behind the use of anthropomorphic animals and somewhat subtle language, such as when Judy tells a somewhat aggressive cheetah that “only a bunny can call another bunny cute”.
Judy is relegated to meter-maid duty by the police chief (Idris Elba as a water buffalo) but soon finds herself the only police officer capable of solving the case of 14 missing mammals. Teaming up with hustler Nick Wilde, a conniving sly fox, Judy’s investigations include a parody of The Godfather, a sloth-filled Department of Mammal Vehicles and political corruption, all presented in the family-friendly Disney style. A couple of twists keep the story moving along nicely for adults while the pace will keep children engaged throughout the 108 minute runtime.
The characters themselves are cleverly crafted and while playing on some stereotypes such as the cunning fox, are more than just basic caricatures. The impressive voice cast help bring the creatures to life and Jason Bateman is on fine form as the cynical yet caring Nick, creating a perfect partnership with Ginnifer Goodwin’s naive and hopeful Judy. Although the duo provide some chuckles, plenty more come from the supporting cast including Tommy Chong as Yax, a laid-back stoner yak, Alan Tudyk as a weasel crook called Duke Weaselton (a nod to his Frozen character of Duke Weselton) and the always entertaining J. K. Simmons as the proud mayor lion of the city.
Although adults will be entertained by the characters, references, occasional piece of humour and the like, the film really comes into its own with the striking visuals on display, notably the city of Zootropolis itself. Introduced via Judy’s train ride from the rural countryside into the city, we are treated to a feast for the eyes as different sections of the sprawling metropolis are laid out in glorious animation that reeks of creativity. The city is divided up into multiple districts including Sahara Square, Tundratown, Little Rodentia and the Rainforest District and you can see the amount of work and research put into each area and its residents- preproduction on the film included visits to multiple locations and climates as well as intense study on how animals move. It’s a visual treat that for older viewers will bring back memories of watching the opening scene of The Lion King all over again.
There is one minor quibble with the film and that is the inclusion of pop star Shakira as Gazelle, a pop star who is a gazelle. It feels forced and the end scene, involving a concert by Gazelle, fails to end the movie on a high note. Overall Zootropolis is the perfect treat for the Easter holidays and is highly recommended with the wonderful message that anyone can accomplish anything and that we can overcome our differences perfectly captured in a true piece of pure entertainment. Check out the trailer below;
Bonus- The image below contains a reference to Frozen with two elephants dressed in the clothes worn by Elsa and Anna, the stars of said movie.
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