Zootopia (a.k.a. Zootropolis) (PG)
Directed by: Byron Howard & Rich Moore
Starring: voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt
Running Time: 108 mins
Set in a world devoid of humans where animals – predator and prey – have evolved to overcome their instincts, most live in their own communities in suitable habitats, but some have come together to live in Zootopia, a metropolis made up of all animals living happily together in artificially maintained habitats. Bunny Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) has joined the police force, graduating top of her class despite bunnys not normally being suited to law enforcement, and is posted to Zootopia where she is immediately placed on traffic warden duties by her superior Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) despite there being numerous animals that have disappeared in recent days.
Whilst on duty, Hopps encounters Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a fox who is a con-artist – the embodiment of a stereotype everyone in Zootopia has that foxes cannot be trusted, and learns that he has a connection to one of the missing animals. Challenging her boss with this information, Hobbs is forced to put her job on the line when he gives her an ultimatum to find the missing animals in 48 hours, or hand in her resignation, and sets out with an unwilling Nick helping her to find out what happened to these missing animals.
I’m generally skeptical when it comes to animation movies at present. Yes, animation seem to be going through a renaissance of sorts lately with great work in things like Inside Out which was a phenomenal success, whilst there have been other movies not at the same standard but enjoyable fair nonetheless such as Minions and just this last month the fun but not groundbreaking Kung-Fu Panda 3. Then there are the less fantastic offerings, in particular movies like Hotel Transylvania 2, which was a real disappointment – the movie it most reminded me of was the very sub-par Monsters University, both of which were nice to look at but lacked any real humour.
The thing that these movies show you is that one of the crucial elements of a good animation movie is ingenuity. A good story, characters and heart are an important requirement as well, but ingenuity is what made the greats work like Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo (which we’ll see followed up later this year with Finding Dory), Wreck It Ralph, Despicable Me, and Frozen to name a few.
So how does Zootopia measure up to the above? Well…
Happily, I can say Zootopia is one that deserves to be right up there with the best of them. It has it all, interesting characters, laced with humour throughout, both in its cultural references (a highlight being a Godfather inspired scene during which I dare any adult not to crack up, and a Frozen reference that everyone will love) and visual ingenuity throughout the design of the Zootopia city (it was no surprise to see John Lasseter’s name listed as a produced when the end credits rolled), and last but not least the movie has heart. The real thing that’s most surprising is that not only does it have all this in spades, it’s culturally relevant aswell, if not an important comment on the present state of the world’s society.
The heart content comes in the recognisable form of positive reinforcement, showing that it’s important to reach for your dreams and be what you want to be rather than being limited by the labels and barriers that society forces on you. But there’s more than that. Zootopia touches upon the subjects of racism, stereotype, discrimination and bullying without being preachy in terms that will hit home with both children and adults in an impressive yet subtle way through its storyline and its characters.
Had Zootopia been released sooner, I have no doubt it would have given Inside Out a run for its money at the Oscars, it’s an important, clever, fun, humerous, movie but above all it’s just damned fine family entertainment and I look forwards to seeing it again numerous times.
5 nerds out of 5