Zootopia (2016) Movie Review

Disney’s Next Winner

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Many people (including myself) have been witnessing Disney animation’s second Renaissance (the first one taking place after the release of “The Little Mermaid”).  And now after “Tangled” Disney animation is a force to be reckoned with again (if you doubted it before, well “Frozen” should have changed your mind).  I also know for many parents it may feel like a chore to bring your younger children to animated films.  However, “Zootopia” is a film that will be hard to ignore by those who doubt animation’s place for both kids and adults.  “Zootopia” is a brilliant and heartwarming movie that has both a serious message and some mature themes.  Disney has another crowning achievement on their hands that will continue this second Disney Renaissance and once again show to people that animation is more than just for kids.

“Zootopia” takes place in a world where humans just don’t exist.  All the animals though have evolved and become civilized.  They are farmers, they are businessmen, and most of them live in the great city of Zootopia where predators and prey live together in harmony (or it seems).  Judy Hopps is a small town bunny with big dreams of becoming the first of her kind to become a police officer and work in Zootopia.  Hopps achieves the dream but finds getting others to take her seriously to be a big hurdle.  After a number of animal disappearances, Hopps teams up with a sly con artist Fox to find the missing mammals and uncover the conspiracy behind it all.

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The most impressive thing about this movie is the world that is created.  When the first couple of trailers were explaining what Zootopia was I kept asking myself why do they have too?  It’s just talking animals replacing the humans.   But the creators really go out of their way to make this feel like a fully functioning and unique world.  The animals are all to scale as they are in the real world.  And the filmmakers address this by creating different environments and living quarters within the city.  We get teased many but we don’t get to see all of them.  I kept finding myself wanting to see more because the ones we are shown are given a level of creativity that we are mostly accustom to coming from a Pixar movie like “Monsters Inc” or “Inside Out”.

I can’t stress this enough how much this movie surprised me at every turn.  The trailers for the movie were good but they didn’t wow me.  It made it into my top 20 most anticipated of 2016 on the back of it being a Disney Animated film (a proper one too from Disney Animated Studios; not like “Planes” which is made by DisneyToon Studios).  I thought I had this movie figured out going into it.  But, this film has a lot of clever tricks up its sleeve.  Before we even jump into the wide array of colorful and fun characters we have just look at how well crafted of a story this movie has.

 

 

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There is a legitimate mystery in the film; one that isn’t cookie cutter or something I’ve felt I had seen before.   I was honestly interested in the outcome and as the movie digs deeper into the mystery it kept pulling out some nice twists.  I can say the story did have me guessing many times, but guessing completely wrong in other spots.

But the biggest surprise is to see just how mature and thoughtful this movie actually is.  Again going into the movie I had my doubts and thought this might just another cute animal movie from Disney.  But, I could not be more wrong.  The filmmakers use the animals to discuss and talk about some very real topical issues like race, gender, media and even touches on drugs.  It’s all done in a way that kids can digest it and not get too overwhelmed by.  The movie doesn’t get preachy but it can’t be mistaken what the messages are.   We are even treated to a very sad and dramatic back story for our Fox character that serves towards the entire metaphor for racism in the movie.

The Fox is voiced by Jason Bateman.  Bateman is sly, cool and fun as the Fox named Nick Wilde.  He is a con artist that scams his way through life.  Forced to help out the police in their investigation Nick uses his skills in a world that looks down upon Foxes.   Partnering up with him is the heart and soul of this movie Judy Hopps voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin.  Hopps is naive, determined and optimistic .  She isn’t a flawless character and makes her share of mistakes but she undeniably likeable.  Goodwin and Bateman work flawlessly together as voice talents.  The rest of the film is packed to the brim with terrific voice actors.  Most notable is Idris Elba (who will also lend his voice to the upcoming “Jungle Book”) as the angry police captain.  Around him is the voices of such greats as J.K. Simmons, Bonnie Hunt, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrance and even an appearance by Shakira (which does feel a little forced and out of place).

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By the end I walked out having enjoyed myself greatly.  I liked “Wreck it Ralph” and “Frozen” a great deal but I have to say “Zootopia” is even better.  It doesn’t quite reach the heights of last year’s Pixar film “Inside Out” but it’s certainly not far behind either.  “Zootopia” is a film that I think even more adults will like than kids; and is intelligent enough to discuss tricky issues in an entertaining way.  This movie is funny, heartwarming and represents some of the best the genre (and the studio) has to offer.

Final Score

9.5/10

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