Movie Review: Disney “Zootopia” Offers a Solid Film with Humor, Action and Social Commentary

Hi everyone!

Here is my review of Disney’s Zootopia, which begins today. Look for it in some locations this week on Imax 3D, that should be the best experience!

Also check out my interviews with Jason Bateman & Ginnifer Goodwin, as well as directors Byron Howard & Rich Moore.

In Zootopia, anyone can be anything.

Dreams are made to be followed, and from a young age, bunny Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) has her sights set on becoming a police officer and moving to the utopian metropolis of Zootopia. With a determination that transcends both a bullying incident and the humorous attempts at her parents to keep her life expectations low, Hopps soon graduates from the police academy and boards a train for the city she’s had her heart set on for years. The train ride is an exciting one for her, as she travels through other neighborhoods (including the chilly Tundratown), with the upbeat and catchy song “Try Everything” by pop star Gazelle (Shakira) perfectly underscoring her motivation.

It takes only about 24 hours for the optimistic Judy to have her bubble partially burst. She is the first bunny to be on the police force at the Zootopia Police Department, but Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) doesn’t care. He is a cape buffalo who oversees a police force full of elephants, tigers, rhinos and other large animals. Even though she graduated at the head of her class, Chief Bogo assigns her to parking duty – a meter maid position. Her enthusiasm loses its luster momentarily, but she then plans to prove that she will write more tickets than asked and prove her worth.

Enter Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a scam artist fox who elicits Judy to be in on one of his con jobs, but without her knowledge – at least at first. Once she realizes that he has scammed her, she turns the tables on him and they become an unlikely team. With 48 hours to solve a case – and Judy’s job on the line – they set out to find out why some animals in Zootopia (including one otter) have become vicious. Until this case, predator and prey animals have lived side by side without issue in Zootopia, but fear takes over the city as 90% prey animals start becoming scared of the 10% predators. And predators aren’t just large animals, otters and foxes are in that category as well.

Zootopia is a world where humans have never existed. The 64 mammal species take on human characteristics, like walking on two legs, but retain their animal characteristics. Judy walks on two feet like a human, but her nose twitches; her foot taps uncontrollably when excited or agitated; and her ears perk up when something catches her attention. The filmmakers studied animals for 18 months to capture these nuances. And each animal has its own realistic fur (did you know polar bear fur is actually clear?)

It is important to note that there are serious topics in Zootopia, from bullying to prejudice and to overcoming obstacles to reach your goals. There are also some scary moments, including one where I jumped a little, but then laughed as the rest of the audience did. But even more so, Zootopia is an extremely funny film, and the scary moments often are surrounded by the humorous ones. Likely you’ve seen the hysterical sloth trailer at the Department of Mammal Vehicles. It isn’t unusual for the best bits to be found in trailers, and then equally funny scenes may not exist. It isn’t like that in Zootopia. The sloth scene makes me laugh each time, but there are so many truly funny and heartfelt moments. Zootopia is so layered with humor, action, and life lessons – everybody can take something away from it. One of my favorite scenes is at a naturalist club, where Nick and Judy go to question someone. Nick says to Judy, “In Zootopia, anyone can be anything. These guys, they be naked.” Tommy Chong is perfect as Yax the Yak, but all the voices in the cast are very well suited to their characters. The filmmakers were able to secure each actor they wanted for his or her respective part. Benjamin Clawhauser (Nate Torrence) as the ZPD’s cheetah at the reception desk is adorable!

There are a few other fun facts to look for. Animals are proportionate to each other. For example, it takes 97 mice standing head to toe to equal a single giraffe. And because of that, there are solutions that need to be created for these animals to live together (including a funny elephant sequence in an ice cream shop). And there are some Frozen references, watch for Duke Weaselton, played by Alan Tudyk as he also plays the Duke of Weselton in Frozen. Kristen Bell plays a sloth (Priscilla), she is a huge sloth fan. There are so many fun, inside references that a second screening is helpful (I’ve now seen it twice).

Zootopia was the film I’ve anticipated most this year, and it lived up to everything I expected and more.

Mousesteps grade: A

Rated PG