Intelligent and unexpected. So this is a universe where no humans exist, but animals dress in clothes and have all the occupations that you would expect to find in the normal world. This is about a rookie bunny cop (Ginnifer Goodwin) and a con artist fox (Jason Bateman) who are forced to team up to uncover a conspiracy. Even though Pixar has carved their name at the top of the animated market, non-Pixar Disney has been killing it lately. With Frozen and Zootopia, they have two monster hits that resonated with audiences everywhere because they are both quality films (say what you will about the overexposure of Frozen, it’s still a great movie). A 98% rating on rottentomatoes and fantastic word of mouth demanded that I check Zootopia out while it was still playing in theaters.
And I am more than glad that I did.
They have created a very layered and smart movie with Zootopia, which is refreshing. It could have been easy to take the low road on this; kids will be entertained if there are just a bunch of bright and fast moving colors on the screen (but at that point, why don’t you just plop them in front of a fish tank?). They made something here that can be enjoyed by both kids and adults, and surprisingly, there’s a lot of high brow jokes and biting social commentary to be found, which is likely one of the last things you would expect to find in a children’s movie. For example, take a look at the poster to this. Would you expect this to be the movie that has a lot to say about racial profiling? I didn’t think so, but that’s exactly the kind of movie that this is.
It’s a clever metaphor that is easy for everybody to understand.
Apart from the surprising amount of depth to be found here, you also have some perfectly cast voices behind the characters. While this may be typecasting, it doesn’t make what Jason Bateman does here any less fun and inspired, and the same exact thing can be said for Ginnifer Goodwin. They have a great back and forth together, and it is always engaging to see just how their relationship grows. Zootopia is fast and fun, and they are constantly doing something fresh with how this world works with all of these animals. It works as a crime mystery in addition to being a family-friendly cartoon, and how often has that ever been said? The more I think about it, the more I like it, and I know this came out in the first quarter, but this is a strong contender for the animated movie of the year.
Zootopia (2016) ****1/2
– Critic for Hire
Want to see where this fell in my list of best films of the 2016? See for yourself here.