2016 – Social lessons abound when a rabbit police officer teams up with a con artist fox to fight crime in an anthropomorphic animal metropolis.
I’ll admit it right off the bat: Zootopia is a good movie. The story is funny and lighthearted, the characters are easy to like, and the voice acting is fine-to-excellent. I enjoyed it, had a few laughs, and walked out of the theater pleased with the viewing experience.
Judy Hopps (Ginnifer [“GINNIFER”?!?] Goodwin) always dreamed of becoming the first rabbit officer on the Zootopia police force, despite the fears of her small-town parents. Her idealistic hopes are challenged when she arrives for duty and encounters the pompous Mayor Lionheart (J.K. Simmons, playing every J.K. Simmons character), the hostile Chief Bogo (Idris Elba, in a role that amazingly might NOT be used to argue that he’d make THE PERFECT James Bond), and the cynical Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman, doing his best smug Jason Bateman-ing).
Despite initially not liking each other AT ALL, Judy and Nick surprise us all and soon prove to be the perfect crime-fighting team. When they discover that members of the city’s predator species are “going savage” and reverting to their animalistic instincts, they have to overcome a sinister conspiracy and a whole bunch of they’re-just-animals-but-you’ll-probably-relate-this-to-the-current-political-situation-in-America prejudices to save the day.
Disney isn’t re-inventing the wheel with this one. The lessons of Zootopia are your typical kid lessons: believe in your dreams, be yourself, don’t judge others. It’s a safe, middle-of-the-road film that avoids major missteps, but lacks any truly memorable moments. The dearth of real challenges or surprises somehow works and makes for a comfortable, easy watch.
Everything you’d expect is in here. There’s the “Depressing First Day” sequence, where Judy realizes that life in the big city isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. There’s the “Turn In Your Badge” scene, where the Chief gives the upstart young officer 48 hours to solve the case. There’s the “Heart of Gold” scene where the snarky Nick reveals that he’s just a big softie after all. There’s the “Tragic Misunderstanding” scene where just when you think our leads are going to get together, they have a falling out.
None of these things are bad. I’m just saying Zootopia isn’t Aladdin or The Lion King – it’s not even Frozen. It isn’t a generation-defining animated movie, but it’s good vanilla entertainment. And, as an unexpected plus, there are actually moments that won’t go over the heads of every kid in the audience!