In the city of Zootopia, where it’s said everyone can be whatever they want to be, the city’s first rabbit police officer is quickly finding out that’s not quite the case and when it comes to race/species the world is a lot more complicated than she can imagine.
Zootopia is a glittering city in a world where mammals (and only mammals it seems, there don’t seem to be any reptiles to be seen) have evolved past their roles as predators and prey and can all live together without the overwhelming desire to eat each other.
Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin from Once upon a Time) Zootopia’s first ever Rabbit cop (her colleagues are all far bigger, more threatening rhinos, elephants, wolves, big cats and Oxen) quickly discovers that society has its own, less publicized notions of what each species is capable of and it’s pretty hard to change things when you’re only a small rabbit.
After being relegated to “meter maid” duty, despite coming top of her class at the academy, Judy takes up the challenge of attempting to solve a spate of disappearances that have plagued the city, the only snag being she’s just got 48 hours to do it or else she has to hand in her badge. Lucky for Judy, she’s not alone, as she can rely, mostly, on assistance from “streetwise” fox and hustler Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), who’s going to help her whether he likes it or not and pretty soon Judy discovers that even a Fox can have troubles of their own with societal pressures.
The long and the short of it…
If all that seems like too long an introduction for a review, it’s nothing compared to how long it takes for Zootopia‘s main plot to surface, with the story having to cover a seemingly pivotal moment in Judy’s childhood, Judy leaving home for Zootopia, the ups and downs of her police training, an introduction to Zootopia, and Judy’s experiences with her colleagues at the police precinct before the main plot bothers to show up!
When it finally finally does appear, the main plot develops into a nice odd couple detective drama, weirdly reminiscent of 1987’s Dragnet starring Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd, with a mismatched duo initially distrusting each other before slowly building a bond as the world refuses to quite believe the results of their investigation.
Surprisingly, Hopps and Wilde do actually solve the crime well before the end of the movie, with a third act twist that drives homes Zootopia’s real messages; despite all our supposedly modern thinking and best intentions, racism (speciesism?) can arise from the most unexpected places; even if we insist that we all live in a post racial world, there is still plenty of lingering, automatic prejudice that needs to be overcome before we can all be truly equal, and sometimes it’s those of us who don’t think we’re part of the problem that can be the most problematic.
Judy may have done her best to become a “Bunnycop” but her larger, more intimidating colleagues see her as nothing more than a cute little bunny, but it turns out Judy herself has some undiscovered prejudices that she needs to get over.
Zootopia’s message is to be applauded however it’s delivery system could do with a little work. The film is slow to start with many of those early scenes feeling unnecessary, and it relies a little too much on cute sight gags around the city to keep the audience entertained until the plot kicks into gear.
The film can also feel a little disjointed at times with nice moments developed only for their potential to be discarded, like when little flourishes like Judy’s frustrated thumping of her foot like Thumper from Bambi, or Nick’s oh-so-cute scam artist sidekick Finnick are used once or twice and then disappear from the film. Perhaps this is on account of the films three directors; Byron Howard (Tangled & Bolt), Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph, The Simpsons) and first time director Jared Bush.
Kids will probably enjoy the sight gags but adults will not find quite as many jokes for them as there has been in more recent animated movies outside of a few “bits” about how it’s not polite for other species to call rabbit’s the c-word (it stands for “cute”) and some animals involved in drugs being called Walt and Jesse.
Predator and prey, living together… PANDEMONIUM!
Goodwin’s suitably blustery performance mostly carries you along with the film and Bateman gets the play the more roguish side of his personality to his better known personally from Arrested Development, but the story that surrounds them could have been tightened up considerably without losing much.
The supporting cast also do well with J.K. Simmons as a mayoral lion and Idris Elba as a gruff Oxern standing out and this is yet another animated film where I didn’t recognise Alan Tudyk’s (Firefly, Dodgeball) voice until the closing credits!
Like last year’s The Good Dinosaur, Zootopia suffers from the expectations of what has gone before, it’s a worthy parable about tackling racism that doesn’t quite hit the high notes of Disney Animation Studios previous output like Wreck it Ralph, Big Hero 6, or Frozen.
Zootopia is released in Malaysian cinemas on 25th February 2016
Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Tommy Chong, J.K. Simmons, Alan Tudyk, Shakira, Raymond S. Persi.
Directed by: Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush
Official Site here.