OP-ROB RATING: ALL-STAR
“Zootopia” is about an ambitious young bunny named Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), who lives in a modern society where animals all get along, predator and prey alike. Despite the pleas of her protective parents, Judy ditches the idea of becoming a carrot farmer and pursues a career as a police officer. She overcomes all adversity and graduates the police academy at the top of her class to become the first police bunny ever. Upon graduation, Judy is sent to Precinct 1 located in the heart of the great city of Zootopia. Judy’s parents caution her to be wary of predators like lions and tigers and bears, but especially of foxes. As Judy’s parents see it, despite how far society has come in the world of “Zootopia”, some animals will always revert back to their “savage” ways. Judy reluctantly accepts the anti-fox mace spray her parents give her and hops on the train to the big city.
Zootopia is nothing short of a grand metropolis with gleaming buildings and distinct neighborhoods. Just a few include the “Rainforest District”, “Sahara Square”, and “Tundratown”. Judy is stationed in the downtown area where she is rudely greeted by her superior officer, an Ox named Bogo (Idris Elba). Judy the bunny looks out of place in a room full of tougher animals such as Timberwolves, Cheetahs, Lions, and Rhinos. Bogo addresses the room about fourteen missing persons from around Zootopia and promptly assigns all of the tough animals to the separate cases. He sticks Judy on parking duty, making her nothing more than a “meter maid”. Through a series of events, Judy is allowed to investigate a case regarding a missing otter named Emmett Otterton. Her lead witness in the otter’s disappearance is a clever fox named Nicholas “Nick” P. Wilde (Jason Bateman). Judy and Nick become a kind of team when investigating the case, which leads them all around Zootopia and into a grand conspiracy involving the highest members of government.
For all of the colorful scenes and silly characters, there are certain points in which “Zootopia” is for adults rather than kids. In one scene Judy and Nick stumble into a metro car that has been turned into what resembles a meth lab where creepy ram named "Doug" stomps around in a gas mask mixing chemicals. His yellow suit is reminiscent of Breaking Bad. At one point Judy and Nick are led to a “naturalist” club called “The Mystic Spring Oasis”. Judy and Nick gawk at the naked animals meditating and doing yoga around the club while they try to gather information. What would this scene look like in a movie with humans? These two scenes and many others exemplify a level of grittiness that was surprising for a children’s animation film. In another scene the duo encounter a crime boss named "Mr. Big", a tiny rat, who hilariously resembles Don Corleone from "The Godfather". "You come into my house the day my daughter is to be married" he says... I couldn't stop laughing.
In the world of animation, details are often what make a movie great. “Zootopia” nails everything on the spectrum. There are little parodies including Starbucks as “Snarlbucks”, Macy’s as “Mosuey’s”, and Lululemon as “Lululemmings”. More importantly, the animals have a full gamut of facial expressions that give them life, and make them a real character. Although “Zootopia” is set in a fictional world, there is plenty to take away from the movie and apply to real life. In several scenes, “Zootopia” plays around with this real life application. When Judy and Nick have to identify a license plate number and go to the DMV, all of the workers are sloths…literally. Early on in the story as Judy is working as a meter maid, a frustrated driver yells at her, “my taxes pay your salary lady.” These were jokes most of the kids in the theater wouldn’t understand but drew plenty of laughter from the parents. More importantly, “Zootopia” confronts the ever-contemporary political issue of xenophobia and racism. Throughout the film, there are conflicts between predators and prey. The film dares to ask, can predators be civilized? Or will they always revert back to their biological behavior?
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of “Zootopia” is its versatility. It has the makings of a fun children’s animation film, a detective thriller, a coming-of-age story, and a politically charged drama. Amazingly, “Zootopia” succeeds in all of these endeavors. The directors of the film, Byron Howard and Rich Moore, have extensive experience in animation as well as clear-cut political views regarding diversity and acceptance. In many ways “Zootopia” is the anti-Trump of animation films. While “Zootopia” doesn’t quite match the brilliance of Disney Pixar’s “Inside Out”, it is certainly one of the best animation films I have seen in recent memory, and bears a vitally important message about the world we live in today.
P.S. The movies theme song ("Try Everything") is performed by a gazelle named "Gazelle". She is Zootopia's version of Shakira, and the song is definitely worth a listen.