Movie Review: Zootopia

Zootopia is a typical movie about empowerment crafted for kids, but it still manages to be entertaining through detailed animation and perfectly cast voice actors, as well as stay relevant thanks to a clever script that slyly tackles race-related issues.

The modern mammal metropolis of Zootopia is a city like no other. Comprised of habitat neighborhoods like ritzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown, it’s a melting pot where animals from every environment live together—a place where no matter what you are, from the biggest elephant to the smallest shrew, you can be anything. But when optimistic Officer Judy Hopps arrives, she discovers that being the first bunny on a police force of big, tough animals isn’t so easy. Determined to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to crack a case, even if it means partnering with a fast-talking, scam-artist fox, Nick Wilde, to solve the mystery. [Walt Disney Animation Studios]

Perhaps learning from the recent success of Pixar, The House of Mouse has now also made an effort to offer mature lessons through a kid-friendly theme.

Zootopia features a world of anthropomorphic animals that mirror our own. I daresay that this feature is Disney’s most detailed work yet, as the urban jungle features a wide variety of species and backdrops. Even though we don’t get a complete tour of Zootopia, it feels expansive. Using a whodunit detective story with an empowering message, the story takes us from the countryside of rabbits to the seedy side of the metropolis with a Corleone-esque lemming. In one action sequence, Hopps runs after a thief in a pint-sized city with apartment buildings, a train station and what looks like connecting tubes for its small citizens.

Taking advantage of its setting, there are clever animal puns here. They behave like humans but still adopt a lifestyle close to the natural order of the animal hierarchy. Predators (including large aggressive animals) take on dominant roles while the prey fall into subservient ones. This includes a police force run by a cape buffalo and a DMV operated by sloths. The script takes it one step further by tackling a timely issue well suited for its premise – Zootopia uses specie-ism to tackle race-related issues.

Officer Judy Hopps carries a fox repellent and points out that “cute” is derogatory for rabbits. She strives to go against societal expectations in a city of possibilities marred by prejudice (but also carries her own), much like any metropolis in human society. Her countryside childhood is different from Nick Wilde’s, whose city life led him to embrace his stereotype.

Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman are a perfect fit for their roles. The rest of the supporting cast are also spot on including Idris Elba as Chief Bogo, Shakira as pop star Gazelle, J.K. Simmons as Mayor Lionheart and Jenny Slate as Bellwether. Even with its mature lessons, Zootopia remains an entertaining movie thanks to this batch of endearing characters. The choice of animals for the leads – a bunny and a fox – also enable the movie to have frenetic action sequences and amusing banter.

In the end, the movie finishes with a neatly wrapped up ending. Zootopia doesn’t tread any new ground and offers the same formula – easy to follow story, adorable characters, and witty humor – but tweaked with it just enough to provide family entertainment. There’s adorable imagery for the kids, some quips for the adults, and a timely lesson cleverly weaved into a easily digestible story.

Zootopia delivers the same platitudes like other previous Disney movies have already told in a variety of ways, but it’s executed and written well to appease the tykes and their parents.

My Rating: 7/10

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Disney, got a love, and hate thing with them. At any time they can create wonderful films, while at the same times create garbage films that are popular simply because their names are attached to it. Your description of the film reminds me a bit of Wreck-It Ralph; having all the expected Disney traits, and having a heart which makes it all charming. It sounds like a fun movie with enough creativity put into it to at least be fun if nothing else. Sounds like a step up from Disney last two films. I would prefer Disney take this creative direction than make more films like Big Hero 6 which I found average, and Frozen which I hated. Even if they don’t go into a good direction with their films, at least there Pixar is around.

    1. I got mixed feelings towards them too. I think the problem is that they’re a corporation first more than anything else, so they’re very conscious about their image and funding. It’s much safer and easier to use tried and tested formulas and they probably think young kids wouldn’t see much difference anyway. They can do something more if they make the effort, but it seems it’s always in little increments rather than execute a bold concept like Inside Out, which in my knowledge is far more complex than anything Disney has done.

  2. jasonkerin says:

    Good review. I love Disney, so I’m definitely going to see this movie.

    1. Thanks! My advice: no need to watch this in 3D, there aren’t any big action sequences worth that extra money.

      1. jasonkerin says:

        Thanks for the advice. And my wallet thanks you as well.

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