STARRING: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Della Saba, Kath Soucie, Idris Elba, J.K Simmons, Tommy Chong, Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate, Shakira, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Alan Tudyk, Raymond S. Persi, Maurice LaMarche and Phil Johnston
In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop and a cynical con artist fox must work together to uncover a conspiracy.
Zootropolis has us seeing the early years of our young heroine Judy Hopps, a rabbit from rural Bunnyburrow, dreaming of one day becoming the first rabbit officer in the Police Department in the nearby city of Zootropolis. Years later we see Judy make her way through the academy and become the first rabbit officer, assigned to the Zootropolis department and is assigned to parking duty by Chief Bogo. Soon she finds herself on a case of locating a missing otter and is giving forty-eight hours to solve the case or resign as part of a deal she makes with Bogo. Along the way she crosses paths with a con artist fox, Nick Wilde, who happens to be a lead on the case.
Zootropolis (or Zootopia as you may know it, depending on what country you’re from) finally came out this weekend and I’ll be honest in saying that the first trailer for the film was all that I had seen and it didn’t sell me entirely on the film. Though through hearing rave reviews from critics and friends across the pond I went in with an open mind and managed to have a very good time watching this screening earlier this afternoon.
Disney manage to have the directors of Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph share directing duties here and with the screenplay penned by Jared Bush (who also co-directed) and Phil Johnston (wrote Wreck-It Ralph), they manage to create an animated feature that’ll be discussed (at length) for its themes and also the scale of Zootropolis itself, managed into one quick montage of a train travelling through the various eco-systems of the city, throwing our small heroine quite literally into the big bad world. The story itself plays like an old school detective drama, with the two leads working on a case that leads to another case more complexed than they would have imagined. The animation works well in showing anthropomorphic animals operating in a big scale city environment, with messages touching equality, stereotypes and racism that everyone can get caught up in without knowingly believing they’re doing it, but have the decency to own up to it and apologise afterwards. It helps also that the two characters we follow happen to be the best buddy-cop duo we’ve seen in quite a while in film, let alone animation. Judy Hopps is quite possibly the most relatable character that we can follow here, someone who dreams throughout childhood have been constantly put down by her parents, who mean-well in theory, believing in the illusion that they must remain carrot farmers because it’s what they’re expected to do and have done since, well, ever, and that carries on as she tries to be taken seriously at the police department in tackling crimes rather than being sidelined to parking duty due to her size. She’s quick on her feet and makes mistakes along the way that add to her development which Ginnifer Goodwin beautifully plays in the role. Jason Bateman will be the standout for some as the con artist fox Nick Wilde, who has been forced to fend for himself due to the social standard that exists in Zootropolis that looks down on him due to what he represents and he literally steals every scene he’s in and the chemistry/bond he shares with Judy Hopps is one of the films key strengths. The side characters have memorable moments, including Idris Elba’s Chief Bogo and of course the sloth known as Dash which had the entire screening laughing during his scenes.
The film kind of stumbles towards the finish line as it suffers from a rather predictably weak final act in its revelation and execution which may have been helped if the runtime was trimmed just a little bit in order to not feel the length in that time. Some viewers may find the messages behind the film to be too blatant or even to a certain degree hypocritical as it actually plays some animal stereotypes for particular laughs in the film. I think some might say that it’s overthinking an animated film but I know some people might take that stance from the film.
On first viewing I was really impressed with the animation and scale of Zootropolis, as well as how well the two lead characters gelled together on screen. Whether the films messages will play well in repeated viewings however will determine its place in the animated classics list later down the line. 8/10