There’s a lot of utopia in “Zootopia.” Disney has, once again, created a magical world in which its characters can happily frolic. In Zootopia, neighborhoods like Savanna Central, Tundratown and Sahara Square host a melting pot of mammals living together in peace and harmony. Well, at least they are living together. As it turns out, harmony is more of a goal than a reality.
Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) is one small bunny. However, this doesn’t stop her from leaving the family farm, jumping on a train, and achieving her life-long dream of joining the Zootopia Police Department. As the ZPD’s first bunny cop she quickly realizes she won’t be given a chance to do real police work.
While the rest of the force, made up of traditionally predatory animals, is given primo assignments, Judy is relegated to traffic duty. She blooms where she’s planted and excels in her new position. But she’s eager to use her training to help fight crime.
It’s on the streets of Zootopia that Judy meets Nick Wilde, featuring the voice of Jason Bateman in his first animated feature. Nick is one sly fox, literally. He is street-smart and finds Officer Hopps and her naiveté quite amusing. Her singular focus is trying to assert herself and impress her chief. She is nothing if not determined.
She manages to snag a real case when several of Zootopia’s animals go missing. When her chief reluctantly gives her a chance, she immediately recruits Nick into helping with the formidable task of finding the wrongdoers.
Her police smarts and his street cred are a match that produces a lot of comedy and suspense. At its heart, Zootopia is a whodunit. The typical banter between tentative partners Judy and Nick yields a lot of laughs. There’s also a moral to this story and in usual Disney fashion it’s wrapped in a delightful ride with captivating characters.
The colorful cast of mammals includes Idris Elba as Chief Bogo, J.K. Simmons as Mayor Lionheart and brilliant performances by Nate Torrence (as Clawhauser), Tommy Chong (as Yax the Yak) and Octavia Spencer as distressed Mrs. Otterton. The film gets the most laughs from Judy and Nick’s visit to the DMV, staffed entirely by sloths. Shakira is a scene-stealer as mammalian pop star Gazelle, singing in the finale.
Judy and Nick are given some sumptuous surroundings by production designer David Goetz and the storytellers keep it real, as real as animation can get. Adults will find humor in the clever writing, meant to appeal to the whole family.
Screenwriters Jared Bush (also a co-director) and Phil Johnston weave together a fantastic world of utopian values with the reality of its seedy underbelly, teaming with criminal elements conspiring to disrupt the peace.
Directors Byron Howard, Rich Moore (and Bush) deliver a thoughtful parable that pits Zootopia’s predatory animals against its kinder, gentler citizens. Given the political climate outside the movie theater, audiences may observe some familiar problems when themes of intolerance begin to unfold on screen. The metropolis of Zootopia has lost its way and the uncompromising Judy Hopps is intent to restore balance.
Other than some frightening animals that go ballistic in a few scenes, there isn’t too much intensity. There is a comedic scene that involves Judy and Nick doing some police work at an animal version of a naturists’ compound, The Mystic Spring Oasis. Animals lounge in the buff, which is not that alarming when you consider they are animated – and animals. Zootopia is suitable for the entire family, especially for those older than 6. That being said, I intend to take my 3-year-old when I see it a second time.
Animation, Rated PG
Run time: 1 hour, 48 mins.
To read more blog posts by Casey Cavalier, visit his site Papa Says So.