ZOOTOPIA – OFFICER HOPPS -- Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin) believes anyone can be anything. Being the first bunny on a police force of big, tough animals isn't easy, but Hopps is determined to prove herself. Featuring score by Oscar®-winning composer Michael Giacchino, and an all-new original song, "Try Everything," performed by Grammy® winner Shakira, Walt Disney Animation Studios' "Zootopia" opens in U.S. theaters on March 4, 2016. ©2015 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Starring the Voices of:  Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, JK Simmons, Tommy Chong and Alan Tudyk
Running time: 108 Minutes 

Directed by: Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush
Year of release: 2016

From an early day, something felt very different about Zootopia. The House of Mouse, having wisely decided to give the princess shtick a breather, has instead turned to anthropomorphic animals to deliver their latest hit… and “knocked out of the park” is an understatement. They start with a strong concept, add a marvelously satirical film noir mystery to solve, deliver some pitch-perfect actors for the voices, expand their visual palette to one of the most impressive efforts in recent years… and to top it all off deliver a heartfelt plea for tolerance and understanding that feels as timely as today’s headlines. It’s a bit of a miracle, though judging by Disney’s impressive track record with animated features of late, we shouldn’t be surprised.

Indeed, its strongest element – a barely disguised denunciation of racism – springs quite naturally from its central concept of a word where humans never existed and animals all developed sentience more or less simultaneously. Their greatest city is Zootopia, with different ecosystems comprising different neighborhoods and the same sorts of problems plaguing it that we see in our world. The filmmakers took that notion while insisting that the animals remain animals, not just people in animal form. (Speaking of which: you’re welcome, furry community.) They remain the same size as their real life counterparts, with tiny doors for tiny critters, and size-appropriate dwellings for various residents. This eventually leads to one of the film’s better visual gags: a chase through the mouse neighborhood of “Little Rodentia” that suddenly takes on the aspects of a Godzilla movie.

That sensibility feeds the main story, since it infers certain stereotypes and prejudices about this city’s residents that our heroes need to overcome. Are you a fox? Well you must be a con artist! Or a rabbit? Better not try to be a cop. Sheep are followers, lions are leaders, and yaks are filthy, filthy hippies. That’s just the way things are. Zootopia’s various protagonists struggle against those assumptions, both in the immediate sense and as a way of fighting the larger problem besetting their city.

It starts fairly simple, as rabbit-from-the-sticks Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin), arrives to fill her lifelong dream of being a cop, but isn’t taken seriously amid the rhinos and water buffalos that make up the department. Saddled with a job as a meter maid, she stumbles onto a larger mystery when a series of citizens – all from predator species – suddenly go missing. She wrangles the unwilling assistance of Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman), a street hustling fox with stereotypes of his own to overcome. They work fantastically well as a mismatched duo, allowing for some clever digs at buddy cop formulas without undermining the nuts and bolts of the sinister conspiracy they hope to unmask.

Like the best Disney movies, it juggles a lot of balls. And like them, it does so with such fantastic grace and artistry that the trick itself looks effortless. This setting could support a whole franchise of widely differing stories without breaking a sweat. The gags arise not only from the usual pop culture tropes (the Godfather digs are especial favorites), but from actual animal behavior married to human society. The supporting characters are fun and engaging and the plot, while nothing too extraordinary, pulls upon the unique nature of this world to provide a lot of original twists and turns.

But all that comes second to the film’s overarching message: simple, straightforward and a tad obvious, but delivered with plenty of heart and a lot of insight into human nature. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Differences can be strengths. You can be a better person by walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. They’re old lessons, but they’ve never felt more timely, and with the world still reeling over a certain short-fingered vulgarian’s terrifying failure to go away, they hit harder than they ever have in recent memory. Zootopia is a great animated film, but it might be something much more: a clarion call for sanity and understanding arriving just when we need it the most. Whether by design or simply good timing, that’s a potential legacy we should all be extremely grateful for.





Our Score

By Rob Vaux

A Southern California native, Rob Vaux fell in love with the movies at an early age and has been a professional critic since the year 2000. His work has appeared on Flipside Movie Emporium, Mania.com, Collider.com and Filmcritic.com as well as the Sci-Fi Movie Page. He lives in the heart of surfer country and still defends the Star Wars prequels against all logic and sanity.

6 thought on “Zootopia – Movie Review”
  1. Gee, I wasn’t aware that the “message we really need right now” is more politically correct ignorance of ethnocentric, cultural reality. Like, you know, all cultures are completely the same, and only a bad person notices the differences, and when the differences are too great to be ignored, we blame the differences on ‘racism,’ or ‘bigotry,’ etc.

    I’d love to see a movie – not animated – where we accept the reality that ‘diversity’ and ‘multiculturalism’ are PROBLEMS that must be overcome to accomplish any semblance of UNITY. There must be a common language, common religion/culture, and defensible borders. The borders are there primarily to prevent invasion from those who refuse to join the culture they are invading. The old idea of the ‘melting pot’ is a good example of trying to do it right. You slowly add people to the culture in accordance with your ability to assimilate them, and their willingness to assimilate.

    Or we can keep doing what we are doing now – ignore reality, and insult people who see the reality and pretend those who see reality are the problem.

    Zootopia is another propaganda indoctrination attempt, once again directed at children.

    1. When I saw all of the glowing reviews of this film, I had my Samuel Clemens moment, “When you find yourself in the majority, you need to question yourself.” Multiculturalism, indeed, is an elitist tool to continue their divide and conquer ways of controlling societies in hopes of one world governance. This film does not disappoint in this endeavor. I am optimistic, though, as Buckminster Fuller had forecasted decades ago that a more peaceful society will come out of the ashes of control. That this forced propaganda will backfire and the non-aggressive principle will prevail, eliminating most borders and the need to be governed by the behemoth octopus we have now. Have gold, have silver, have faith…

  2. My earlier joe-tweaking aside, this was indeed an awesome movie. Captivating visuals, fun characters, decent story line, and a timeless message. Totally worth seeing for adults and kids!

  3. You are an idiot! This is a by the numbers piece of corporate drivel that morons like you lap up faster than a fly speeds toward shit.

    1. Way to go, starting a comment with an insult.
      Did you even see the movie?

    2. Ah, wow, thanks, Joe! I was planning on seeing the film, but now given erudite commentary, I’m gonna totally pass on it!

      I am now gonna speed AWAY from the bovine excrement, and instead will revel in totally awesome movies with no message, no coherent plot, and actually no redeeming value whatsoever. London has Fallen, here I come!

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