Zootopia March 20, 2016
Zootopia is the kind of children’s movie so good you forget you’re watching a film made for tots and not for you. Granted, I’m not among the parents being begged by their kids to go see the film (I’m just a critic with an obligation). But the movie is the sort I’d easily see again in theaters by myself, unconcerned with side eyes from strangers. You could hardly expect anything less from Walt Disney’s Animation Studios, a production company who has ceaselessly proven itself to be incapable of making something unworthy of our time. Zootopia continues this trend, an instantaneous favorite in a canon full of them.
Its story involves Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin), a bunny rabbit who dreams of overcoming her physical limitations and becoming a big city cop. As the film transports us to a world where the world’s population solely consists of anthropomorphic mammals, most around her laugh at her dreams; but, being a thrill-seeker inept at taking harsh words into consideration, she commits the hard work necessary to live out her childhood fantasies.
But adjustment isn’t as quick as Judy would like it to be; upon arriving in Zootopia, the booming metropolis that acts as the center of the world, she is taken about as seriously as she was in her hometown, the minuscule Bunnyburrow. Her fellow officers consist mostly of gigantic mammals you’d only find on a particular scenic safari — her chief (Idris Elba) is an African buffalo — and so she’s immediately assigned to traffic duty, her abilities cast aside because her size is so laughably small. But the city, in the meantime, is being plagued by mysterious disappearances that seem to be connected. Judy has a feeling that she could crack the case, and, with the help of Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a slick, grifting fox with plenty of shady leads, she weasels her way into investigation, much to the dismay of her boss.
What ensues is a sprightly, funny, and disarmingly smart whodunit/buddy cop comedy bursting with personality, so jam packed with sly one-liners and cultural references that its lurking social commentary (paralleling racial prejudice) proves itself to be a gleaming cherry at the top of its tasty dessert of escapism. It’s a rich cake of bright humor, subtly humanistic drama, and awe-inspiring visuals. And its energetic voice cast, featuring everyone from Tommy Chong to Shakira, is the very thing that makes it unstoppably winsome. So take what you can get — Zootopia is a dependably ingenious work of supple entertainment. Here, we can have our cake and eat it, too, and there’s no shame in being older than an average elementary schooler and hoping for a sequel. A-