This charming animated film from Disney follows a spunky bunny cop and a cunning con-artist fox trying to crack a case of mysterious disappearances in a colorfully vibrant animals-only world. Rating: 4 stars out of 4.
“Zootopia” delights, in ways big and small.
Big: the vibrantly colorful and incredibly detailed landscapes that make up the animals-only world in this charming new animated movie from Disney. Zootopia is the name of a bustling city of spires and monorails and palm trees and creature-crowded thoroughfares. The vistas are enchanting, a feeling that’s reflected in the lavender-iris eyes of the picture’s central character, a diminutive country bunny named Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), as she gazes about in rapt wonder upon her arrival from her home in the sticks.
Small: seemingly inconsequential little scenes — a funny faux bloodletting in a kiddie talent show at the opening; a wee creature saved from being squashed by a giant runaway doughnut — that foreshadow large and consequential plot twists later on.
Movie Review ★★★★
‘Zootopia,’ with the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence. Directed by Rich Moore, Byron Howard and Jared Bush, from a screenplay by Bush and Phil Johnston. 108 minutes. Rated PG for some thematic elements, rude humor and action. Several theaters.
Judy has come to town to become a cop, the first of her kind to make the grade in that demanding profession. She encounters prejudice. “I’m not just some token bunny,” she tells her disapproving chief, a towering Cape buffalo voiced with towering authority by Idris Elba.
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She finds herself caught up in a case of mysterious disappearances, trying to track down the vanished critters, which bugs her boss to no end. She is, after all, only a meter maid and seemingly way out of her depth.
Her reluctant — make that very reluctant — unofficial partner in all this is a cynical con-artist fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman, sly mockery dripping from every word). He’s arch and worldly. She’s upbeat and indefatigable.
Oil and water. The ingredients of a funny, appealing partnership.
More delights: The picture is packed with fully dimensional characterizations, from the largest roles to the smallest in this world where virtually all creatures, regardless of species, live together in harmony. A doughnut-loving chubby cheetah desk cop (Nate Torrence) is a bundle of ebullience and, later, affecting poignancy.
As to jokes, the picture is overflowing with them. There’s a long segment, set in a DMV office where all the staff are extremely slow-moving sloths, that had a screening audience howling.
A fluffy, bubbly sheep deputy mayor (Jenny Slate) is the butt of one of the best jokes in the movie: “Do you think when she goes to sleep she counts herself?” wonders a grinning Nick.
But there’s seriousness here also. Directors Byron Howard (“Tangled’), Rich Moore (“Wreck-It Ralph”) and Jared Bush put a sensitive focus on Judy’s struggles to overcome the low expectations of her boss, and her own parents, that a bunny can’t rise and thrive in the big complicated world out there.
Prejudice is addressed by a plot element in which predator species become targets of discrimination when a crime wave breaks out and the nonpredator species view them with suspicion and fear.
Combining a surprisingly sophisticated conspiracy subplot (who abducted the missing animals?) with unexpected plot twists, insightful character studies, energetic pacing and even a very funny riff on “The Godfather,” “Zootopia” has plenty to appeal to both kids and adults.
An arena-show musical sequence featuring pop star Shakira (as a sexy gazelle) ends the picture on a self-congratulatory note. The self congratulations are earned.