Platform(s): Movie
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: March 4, 2016


Movie Review - 'Zootopia'

by Adam Pavlacka on March 4, 2016 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

A fugitive con artist fox and a rookie bunny cop must work together to uncover a conspiracy.

Watching the trailers for "Zootopia" doesn't quite do the film justice. Yes, it's a visually stunning animated film, but it's also much more than that. "Zootopia" may be a Disney film, but it's not afraid to tackle substantial issues that you might not expect in what would otherwise be a "kid's movie."

"Zootopia" uses the framework of a police procedural to tell its story, which is both a traditional coming-of-age tale and a warning about the danger of prejudice and unfounded bias. Addressing racial inequality is a meaty topic, and "Zootopia" handles it with elegance and class. It gets the point across, never feeling preachy or heavy-handed.

Leading audiences on the adventure is Zootopia police officer, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin). An energetic new recruit, Hopps is the first bunny to become a police officer. Although Hopps earned the position with effort and determination, the gruff Police Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) sees her as nothing more than a token hire, designed to appease the smaller mammals. As a result, Bogo assigns her to meter maid duty, even though there is a rash of missing mammals throughout the city. Hopps only gets assigned to the case through a mixture of luck and slick persuasiveness.

Hopps' unwitting partner in this adventure is Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a con artist fox who just happens to be a witness to one of the disappearances. When first introduced, Wilde comes across as something of a stereotype, but even then, you get the sense that there is something more to him than what you see on the surface. We learn, though a surprisingly dark flashback, that Wilde is who he is because that's all anyone ever saw in him. After all, it's easier to fall into general expectations than to break through them. If everyone sees him as a sly fox, then he'll be a sly fox.

Both Goodwin and Bateman deserve high praise for how they handle their characters. Each has moments of introspection and self-discovery that help shape who they are and how they grow throughout the film. Mistakes are made, but the characters learn from them and build on them. Hopps and Wilde may be an odd couple, but Goodwin and Bateman sell it extremely well.

What's also interesting about "Zootopia" is that it doesn't end when the initial plotline is resolved. There is a point in the film that could have easily been an ending. It wouldn't have been the best, but it would have wrapped the story. Instead, "Zootopia" smartly keeps going, showing us the aftermath of the hero's actions and how it impacts those around her. Ultimately, "Zootopia" isn't about solving the mystery of the missing mammals; it's about Hopps' journey.

In addition to the main story, "Zootopia" stands out with its collection of excellent sight gags and in-world references to popular culture. The joke about a DMV (Department of Mammal Vehicles) staffed entirely by sloths was revealed in a trailer (and it still got plenty of laughs at the review screening), but it was Maurice LaMarche who stole the show as Mr. Big, an arctic shrew who serves as Zootopia's crime lord. The whole sequence was a brilliant homage to "The Godfather." Other references include nods to "Breaking Bad" and an exasperated callout to "Frozen" that is sure to garner chuckles from parents who have heard "Let It Go" one too many times.

The only real issue with the story is the fact that some of the clues seem to land in Hopps' lap just a bit too conveniently, but given the film's other strengths, it's something that is rather easy to overlook.

Visually, "Zootopia" shines, with each of the different regions of the city looking vibrant and distinctly different. Particularly of note are the lush rainforest and the mouse-sized micro-district, complete with Habitrail-style plastic tubes. There is an amazing level of detail that has been put into the world, with much of it likely to go unnoticed until the film hits home video and fans have a chance to review freeze frames in detail.

Regardless of whether you're an adult, a child or just a kid at heart, "Zootopia" has something to offer. The characters are adorable, the story is solid, and the underlying message about the insidious nature of racial prejudice is something that fires on all cylinders. Kudos to the animation team, as "Zootopia" is a fun movie that delivers on a serious topic that is both timely and relevant to the world at large.

Score: 9.0/10

"Zootopia" is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 1 hour and 48 minutes. It is showing in 2-D, 3-D and IMAX 3-D.

Editor's Note: Be sure to check back next week for our take on the Zootopia figures for Disney Infinity 3.0.

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