“Zootopia” is unlike any Disney animated movie I’ve ever seen. Going in I wondered, “what is it about this talking animal adventure that will make it stand out from all the others?” The answer: a seven-person story team that’s crafted an extremely human tale set in an incredible animated world.
“Zootopia” is actually a big-budget, live-action, high-intensity, crime drama in disguise. Disney is promoting it as an over-the-top comedy that’s fun for the whole family, but “Zootopia” isn’t for young kids – not because the content is inappropriate, but because young children simply won’t get the majority of the multi-layered messages and consistent political and social themes weaved throughout. Older kids and adults who like animation stories that have something to say will adore this film.
Every single scene in “Zootopia” feels real. Quickly we’re immersed in, and enchanted by, the life of plucky Judy Hopps (voiced by “Once Upon a Time”’s Ginnifer Goodwin), a country rabbit who’s lifelong goal has been to become the first bunny officer on the Zootopia Police Force. But her dreams of a Utopian-like world in the big city are quickly crushed, as the rigid buffalo – Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) assigns her to parking ticket duty on her first day. And she learns that the “predators getting along with prey in perfect harmony” philosophy of Zootopia isn’t quite authentic, as a sly fox named Nick (voiced by Jason Bateman) tricks and humiliates her.
But Judy is determined not to become a victim – something she experienced as a young bunny. She’s tasked with solving a missing persons case, and so Judy decides to “hustle” Nick into helping her.
“Zootopia” has the cleanest look of any animated movie in recent memory. It’s colorful, but also raw and very authentic. And though some of the themes involving prejudice, societal distinctions, race and diversity are presented in blunt and obvious ways, it’s impressive that such heavy (and timely) material is included in this type of film.
The voice work is outstanding and the original song, “Try Everything”, performed by singer Shakira as Zootopia pop sensation “Gazelle”, has a lot of heart. There are some funny lines and memorable comedic moments, but it’s the drama and moving emotion in the script and characters that propels “Zootopia” to the top of its class.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Zootopia” gets an A-. It may try to say a little too much, but overall, it’s one of Disney’s best – and The First Great Movie of 2016.
Running Time: 108 min.