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Zootopia: movie review

Updated on March 13, 2016
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Collin's been a movie critic since 2009. In real life he works in marketing and is also a novelist ("Good Riddance" published in Oct 2015).

Zootopia
Zootopia | Source

Zootopia is on a mission. From its opening frames, straight through to the Shakira-tastic closing credits, it seems to have only one true purpose-- to tell everyone that stereotypes are bad and can’t we all just get along?

It’s an honorable idea, but there’s something about it just getting beat into your head ad nauseum that takes away some of the magic of the movie. And that’s not even taking to account the fact that Zootopia actually goes against its own message on more than one occasion.

Don’t misunderstand-- the film is cute, funny, and whimsical, and the voice cast is about as good as ever. And certainly there are worse messages to convey-- Disney does have its heart in the right (and timely) place.

Zootopia revolves around Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), an idealistic young bunny who wants to break through the glass (or rabbit) ceiling and become the first cop of her kind. Her brutish boss, Chief Bogo (Idris Elba), is none-too-pleased to have her on board, so he gives her 48 hours to prove herself by solving a nearly impossible case-- find an otter who’s gone missing, or resign.

Hopps quickly recruits (via blackmail) con artist Nick Wilde, a sly fox voiced with perfect greasiness by Jason Bateman. They team up and run from one corner (tundra) of Zootopia to the other (rainforest).

Along the way there is no shortage of brilliant Disney moments, including Hopps’ visit to a nudist colony (where no animal wears even a stitch of clothing) to a Godfather-like bit that finds Hopps and Nick just seconds away from sleeping with the fishes.

There’s never any doubt, of course, about Hopps and Nick accomplishing their mission, and it also gets telegraphed early and often exactly how they’ll do it, but the real issue comes with the movie not even listening to itself.

Disney has never really worried about being too heavy-handed with his mantras, but Zootopia takes it to arguably a whole new level. For all its preaching about accepting all animals and being tolerant and inclusive, there sure are a lot of jokes about animal stereotypes-- from slow-as-molasses sloths to wolves forced to drop what they’re doing and howl at the moon to Judy herself poking fun at her species’ propensity for procreation. It all just seems a bit odd.

The director trifecta of Byron Howard (Tangled), Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph), and first-timer Jared Bush do manage to put together a brisk film full of brilliant art and colorful characters, and there’s plenty to look at and laugh at along the way-- for both kids and their parents.

Conclusion

The fact that Zootopia’s story is credited to not one but seven different people, however, tells you all you need to know. It’s haphazard in some places and trips on itself in others. The end product is perfectly fine and dandy, but it pales against Disney’s last two outings-- Frozen and Big Hero 6. The kids won’t care, obviously; surely they will want to re-watch it again and again-- which is great, as long as they get the (right) message loud and clear.

Rating

3.5/5 stars

Worth the 3D glasses?

Not especially-- there were only a couple swoopy, 3D-worthy moments. The visuals are solid enough on their own that you're safe just going for the basic 2D option. Give the bridge of your nose a day off for this one.

'Zootopia' dinner

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