Wednesday, March 2, 2016


*** out of ****

I just had a very fun time seeing the latest superbly animated family film from Disney and I’m trying very hard to not analyze it too deeply. Zootopia is the studio’s first movie to seem self-conscious about their longstanding tradition in creating anthropomorphic animal worlds. Along with 2011’s Rango and 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit, it’s also one of the few child-aimed films I’ve seen to take place in an alternate world containing whimsical non-human characters who experience situations inspired by dark crime fiction.

The movie enjoys the cute sight of different animal species living and working together in a human-like society, except they all seem to be acknowledging a pre-historic time of primitive animal behavior that fuels a lot of unspoken prejudice amongst one another.

An idealistic country rabbit named Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin) travels to the big city of Zootopia to be the first of her species to join the large-animal-dominated police force. Immediately marginalized and tasked with parking patrol, she encounters a sly fox named Nick Wild (voice of Jason Bateman) whose life of con-artistry angers her until she realizes that his street smarts may be useful in solving a perplexing case that no one in the police force is willing to take on.

The humor of the standard buddy detective mystery applied to a cartoon animal world is enough to keep this movie entertaining through good voice acting and excellently expressive character animation. It’s late into the film when the plot becomes a little overstuffed with a device that’s thought provoking but unclear in its allegory.

Unlike the well thought-out world created for Pixar’s excellent Inside Out, Disney Animation’s Zootopia can be read-into in various ways with various results, but it ultimately wants to teach kids of different backgrounds to appreciate one another’s differences. If a movie from the Disney machine can do this, captivate audiences with eye candy and make stupid references to The Godfather and Breaking Bad, then I suppose I can get behind it.

As some people have applied apocalyptic theories to Pixar’s Cars, I couldn’t help but wonder when the human race met its dark end in the world of Zootopia but they never touch on it.

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