Cinematic Releases: Zootopia

Andrew reviews the 55th Walt Disney Animated Classics film, Zootopia!

Alright, that'll be two pounds of blow,
a bag of weed, and two hookers. 
From the 3D computer animation Walt Disney Pictures team behind Big Hero 6 and Frozen comes arguably their most colorful, comical and most surprisingly socially relevant offering yet, Zootopia.  Set in the anthropomorphic animal metropolis known as Zootopia, the film concerns a farmer bunny named Judy Hopps (Ginnfer Goodwin) who dreams of a career in law enforcement in the city.  Upon entry into the police force of her fellow mammals of prey and predator, she becomes ensconced in a case involving an unexplained epidemic which is causing civilized predators to revert to a feral and violent state.  Enlisting the help of a cocky con fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), the two "sworn enemies" must work together to save the city of Zootopia before the epidemic transforms its denizens into bloodthirsty carnivores.  Simultaneously a screwball comedy and a chase thriller with many faced paced action sequences, Zootopia may be the most informative and culturally important films you can show your children that addresses the ongoing problem in our nation with respect to race relations and gender bias.  As the likes of Donald Drumpf spew hate and fear to keep people in line, Zootopia manages to create a colorful allegory destined to thwart such hate mongering and to dissect the nature of prejudice while still being an entertaining talking animals movie.

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As you've probably guessed, the film deserves it's PG rating for scenes of peril, satirical innuendo including but not limited to hippie nudist colonies, bureaucratic corruption and more than a few jabs at our addiction to cellular phones.  That said, other than a Dreamworks Animation level nod to The Godfather, Zootopia is largely an original comic premise about diversity in a social media driven millennia and an astute rebuke of prejudicial stereotypes.  Save for pop singer Gazelle (voiced by and modeled after Shakira, no less), the film refrains almost completely from musical numbers and is largely driven by the interactions between Judy and Nick.  Zootopia also largely derives power from the totality of the world of the film and only occasionally reaches out to snarky pop culture references only adults will get.  Where things like Shrek, Madagascar and Over the Hedge are almost entirely reliant on how many in-jokes they can throw at you, Zootopia leaves much of that "comedy" on the cutting room floor, instead focusing on Judy Hopps' uphill battle to earn the respect of her fellow police officers in a gender biased collective and upon hastily partnering with Nick Wilde must overcome her own preconceived notions about her once carniverous partner.  Among the film's funniest scenes involves a sloth working the DMV and how his snail's pace delays his reaction to a joke, almost playing out in slow motion.  

No tipping allowed. 
I really cannot recommend this one enough to viewers young and old.  The animation is rich and detailed, the comedy is at once hip without pushing the envelope in the ways Dreamworks Animation generally does and the message couldn't have come at a more important time in our political climate.  It manages to use the framework of a CGI children's entertainment to stand back and regard mainstream society in microcosm, whether it pertains to preying on fear and misunderstanding, old and tired sensibilities attempting to block progressive change or even something as simple as a lack of maturity lending itself to division.  At a time when movies like Paul Haggis' Crash or Andrew Dominik's Killing Them Softly try so hard to critique our society as is, it's refreshing and remarkable how easily a children's movie can so effortlessly achieve what the aforementioned pictures could only dream to do.  Somehow, Zootopia exceeds the limitations of being another Disney vehicle and manages to provide whimsical entertainment and vital social statements in equal measure.  Moreover, at a time when the CGI children's movie is so often a half-hearted diversion for two hours, Zootopia proves you can still make an enduring animated film that will be cherished for years to come that will be regarded as a classic example of how what is ostensibly a kid's movie can tackle controversial social issues better than films aimed at adults can.


- Andrew Kotwicki