From the studio that brought you Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph comes a film that happens to be full of animals, but is surprisingly human. Set in a world similar to our own, the animals replace humans and live amongst each other just as people would. Thrown into a colorful world full of different breeds and factions of existence that would make the Hunger Games jealous, Zootopia is a magnificent example of original world building. Here we see prey and predator living among each other in harmony, but while they are still animals, they have very human conflicts to worry about. Voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin, Judy Hopps – an ethics driven rabbit – decides to leave her life on the farm in pursuit of criminals and wrong doers by becoming a police officer in the city of Zootopia, but on her way, she is met with doubters and living black clouds trying to dampen her spirits as often as possible.
Also lending his smooth and hypnotizing voice is Jason Bateman as a sly fox named Nick, a cunning beast who just so happens to run into Judy on her patrol of the town on her first day. Like nearly every good animated film, it is made with a child friendly sensibility that boasts themes the kids will enjoy as well as the parents. This film in particular will strike the social nerves of most adults with a shocking turn of events around each corner. Sure, most Disney films discuss loss and self discovery, among other heavy themes, but this is different. This is something that merges adult themes with the issues of today in a colorfully elaborate maze of crime noir style storytelling that fits like a needle point in this uniquely woven story.
It would be a lie if I said that kids are going to “love” this film. After seeing a showing with two of my friends (who are 20 somethings) and a big theater filled with parents and their kids, it was the adults who came out the winners. While it has the outer shell of a kids film, this is a film that targets what happens in the world of adults, and it does it well. At least we will know that as the children age and maintain the nostalgia of this film, it won’t grow outdated in its themes. One of my favorite moments in the movie is when the lead characters share stories about themselves to each other. In those moments, it takes a bleak and gut wrenching turn of turmoil and heartbreak that will make people want to go silent. It’s moments like this that separate the film from a lot of its animated counterparts because it confidently pushes its story and bold ideas into a stratosphere that breaks through to its older viewers like a sledgehammer. Moments that have me holding mouth are what will stay with me after the credits roll on.
From social issues relating to the struggles of police and citizen relationships to the segregation of different beings due to their uncontrollable differences, Zootopia is like Star Trek and tries to boldly go where not too many animated films have gone before. Keep in mind, the animation is not in the vein of Pixar’s trademark 3D realism, but rather a more basic 3D animation we are used to seeing through studios like DreamWorks. The all star voice cast lends itself to their characters as you’d expect they would. Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Alan Tudyk, and Shakira all excel at bringing life to these already lively characters as well as make you forget they are even suppose to animals.
If you had crayons and I was merely an outline, you could color me shocked at how much I enjoyed and appreciated this film. No it is not up there with some of the “best” animated films, but that wouldn’t be fair to Zootopia anyways. It’s a bright and often blunt depiction of our own world only through the visual aids that are talking animals. The pop culture references are endless and joyous each time they show up with each one hitting its mark like Robin Hood.Quickly confident pacing makes this film go in different directions that makes you think it is over when it isn’t and doesn’t complete answering the questions at hand until we are ready. It’s a pleasant surprise that is (as I always seem to say) kid friendly, but not just for kids.
If you want to know exactly what social comments the film makes you’re going to have to go out and see the movie yourself, but to say it will always hold relevancy in American society in an understatement and it comes at a time that these topics are as constant as they’ve ever been.