2016, PG, 108 min. Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush. Voices by Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, J.K. Simmons, Tommy Chong.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 4, 2016
Easily one of Disney’s more imaginative and detail-oriented CGI offerings in a while, Zootopia uses the classic tropes of anthropomorphized animals and comic references to pop-culture touchstones to slyly puzzle out what it means to be “civilized.” Set in the titular city – which at times looks like both Oz and the Magic Kingdom – wherein bipedal, clothes-wearing predators and prey alike have evolved to a state where they can live and work together in relative harmony, this is eye candy for Looney Tunes fans, even without Chuck Jones’ (far more realistic from a Darwinian point of view) tooth-and-nail Road Runner vs. Wile E. Coyote theatre of the absurd. And it’s also a lot of fun.
Can-do rabbit cop Judy Hopps (Goodwin) and ne’er-do-well hustler fox Nick Wilde (Bateman) are initially viewed as being on opposing sides of the law. He scams frozen “pawpsicles” on the street corner while she, the city’s first “bunny cop,” is tasked by the Zootopia Police Department Chief Bogo (Elba), a water buffalo, with handing out parking tickets. Judy’s shot at the big time arrives amid a mass disappearance of Zootopia’s citizenry, all of whom are predators. Given 48 hours by the chief to make headway on the case or retire from the force, clever bunny Judy teams up with foxy Nick and uncovers a plot to devolve the city’s carnivores back to their natural, sharp-toothed instincts. With the clock racing, these two unlikely sleuths must unravel the mystery of the missing meat-eaters.
Executive-produced by Pixar’s John Lasseter and with a tight, winning script from a quintet of Disney writers, Zootopia’s message is one of inclusiveness. Tommy Chong milks some stony yuks from a Rasta yak who runs an au naturel club for animals that feel unnatural wearing clothes, Shakira adds the necessary musical number, and Maurice LaMarche nails Godfather-era Marlon Brando as the vole Mr. Big.
The lessons to be drawn from Zootopia’s un-animalistic and civil society are many – some will sail right over younger viewers’ heads – but in this fraught election year and age of rampant xenophobia it certainly can’t hurt to reaffirm what should be obvious to all: We have to get along to go along, or all is lost.