In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop and a cynical con artist fox must work together to uncover a conspiracy.
Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore
Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Bonnie Hunt, Alan Tudyk, J.K. Simmons, Tommy Chong, Shakira, Octavia Spencer
Rated: PG (some thematic elements, rude humor and action)
By Matt Greene
Disney’s most recent Animated Classic Zootopia is already a giant hit, critically and financially. Its mixture of broad humor, undeniable spirit, and timely / timeless themes of inclusivity and acceptance make it easy to see why. Is Zootopia’s message a bit on-the-nose? Oh, yeah. (What’s the exaggerated version of that term? IN –the nose? FROM-the-nose? The-nose-itself?). At times that insistence to wear its thoughts on its sleeve can be distracting. However, this is morally-upstanding entertainment made for children, and if we remember that, it becomes not only enjoyable but even admirable.
Judy Hopps (Goodwin) is at the center of this fish-out-of-water (better yet, bunny-out-of-town) tale, as Zootopia’s (a species-melding-pot metropolis) first rabbit police officer on her first case, helped by conniving-insider fox Nick. What follows is a mystery tale that, while juvenile, is full of fun references and absolutely amazing world-building. At times, it may test your limits on animal-based wordplay, but its ubiquitous cuteness (a term coined “offensive to the bunny community”) and strongly expressive animation make it difficult to dislike. Along the journey, we encounter numerous classes of animals, each representing both the silly stereotypes of their “animal-race”, while smartly standing in for human biases and prejudices.
What’s truly noble about that blunt messaging is it doesn’t deny the disparities between us or claim that “color-blindness” is the path to a less-bigoted world. It’s more an indictment of fear as a means of power, something we know all too well, encouraging us to recognize our differences and use them as a support instead of a weight. On-the-nose or not, that is a message worth implanting in every American, both child and adult.
3.5 out of 5 Stars
By Cole Schneider
Disney’s newest Animated Classic, “Zootopia,” continues the studios’ hot streak. It has been nearly ten years since “Bolt,” their last weak effort. Certainly “Zootopia”—a story about a small, rural bunny who moves to the big city, becoming the first “prey” on the police force and befriending a sly fox before getting pulled into a noir-mystery where the previously peaceful coexistence of “prey” and “predator” is threatened—is a charming, fun, dynamic film with a can’t-miss message of tolerance that is both timeless and, unfortunately, especially important to hear in 2016. Judy Hopps (the bunny) and Nick Wilde (the fox) are an excellent pair of characters to lead us through the winding narrative that unfolds in the beautifully realized metropolitan city of Zootopia.
Yet, this is no “Frozen,” which remains the most satisfying of Disney’s recent output. In each of “Zootopia’s” primary goals, it fails to find the exact-correct measurement. Yes, its themes are timely and entirely noble and good, but also so blunt and forceful that it misses the power a more subtle approach would have brought; we could’ve used less message. Yes, the humor is buoyant and cleverly mixes slapstick with screwball, but for stretches it disappears; we could’ve used more humor. Yes, the mystery serves to engage the audience in well-paced plot alongside these other efforts, but it doesn’t seem to understand how noir works, taking the mystery away from the audience by keeping too much information from us; we could’ve used more participation. All this without mentioning the awful presence of Shakira’s Gazelle; we could’ve used none of that. What remains is a less-than-great, yet easy, poignant time out at the cinema.
3 out of 5 Stars