By Nico Beland
Movie Review: A+ (4 stars)
Walt Disney Animation Studios, the studio that brought us Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, and Big Hero 6 strikes again with their latest animated film, Zootopia, under direction by previous Disney film directors, Byron Howard (Tangled) and Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph). I’m going to be honest, when I first saw the trailer for Zootopia, I thought it seemed like a step backwards from Disney’s other movies, especially after big hits like Frozen.
I thought it looked like a straight up kids’ movie and nothing else, it didn’t look bad or anything but I felt it wouldn’t be able to top Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, or Frozen in terms of audience engagement. Not to mention I was worried it was going to end up like the critically panned 2005 Disney film, Chicken Little, which also focused on talking animals living in suburbia, and the Sloth trailer certainly didn’t change anything.
But with the film opening to critical acclaim and believe it or not, even more critical acclaim than Frozen, I decided to give the film a watch. And I loved it, a lot actually, which is really odd because the plot isn’t all that original and the characters are pretty standard cop movie stereotypes, but what made the film so good was its creativity and animation.
It’s a perfect example of a movie that totally takes full advantage of what’s given to them, much like Wreck-It Ralph, the movie is filled with different varieties of animation, sizes, and constantly throws jokes at you all throughout the movie and the majority of them hit bull’s-eye. Also the characters are very engaging and well-developed, and most of it comes from the hard work of the voice cast, and they get some of the best people to match these characters.
The story is set in the city of Zootopia, where animals of all shapes and sizes live in harmony, what once was a game of survival between predator and prey is now a peaceful world where animals are accepted among each other. The film follows a young rabbit named Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin-Walk the Line, A Single Man, Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast) who ever since she was a little bunny dreamt of becoming the first rabbit police officer in hopes of making the world a better place.
After countless training exercises and being mocked for her size, she becomes…a parking validator (Yeah, I’m not making this up!). She then comes across a fast-talking scam artist fox named Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman-Arrested Development, Juno, Horrible Bosses) who gets roped into helping her solve a big case to prove to everyone that she is a real cop.
Apparently citizens of Zootopia are mysteriously becoming savages under unknown circumstances and it’s up to Judy and Nick to join forces and solve the mystery as well as save their city from maximum animalist carnage. From running a car plate number in a DMV being managed by sloths to interrogating a vicious crime boss that resembles a certain famous movie character.
The film also features the voices of J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man trilogy, Whiplash, Terminator: Genisys) as Leodore Lionhart, the lion mayor of Zootopia and an obvious jab at the MGM lion, Idris Elba (Thor, Prometheus, Pacific Rim) as Chief Bogo, a cape buffalo chief of the Zootopia Police Department, Jenny Slate (Obvious Child, Bob’s Burgers, The Secret Life of Pets) as Dawn Bellwether, assistant mayor of Zootopia, Bonnie Hunt (Jumanji, The Green Mile, Cars) and Don Lake (American Dragon: Jake Long, Curb Your Enthusiasm, How I Met Your Mother) as Judy’s parents, Tommy Chong (Cheech & Chong) as Yax, a laidback yak who manages a naturist club (And yes it’s exactly what you think it is!), and singer, Shakira as gazelle pop star, Gazelle.
Overall, Zootopia is a well-made animated adventure for the entire family, and I don’t mean that as a marketing statement, it really is a great movie to watch as a family, whether you got little kids or not. The movie is smart and very well written, the characters are fun, the humor ranges from being funny to downright hilarious (even the Sloth scene is funnier here than in the trailer!).
The animation is gorgeous here, especially the design of the Zootopia city and the lighting, whether it’s colorful or moody, I can’t get enough of it.
But those don’t come close to my praise on the film’s variety of the shapes and sizes of the Zootopia city. The best part of the movie in my opinion is a scene where Judy is chasing a weasel crook through the city and they end up in the mouse part of town where everything is small and they’re like the size of a Godzilla monster, these are really clever and funny ideas and I loved seeing these different ideas explored in the film.
What also makes the film so enjoyable is the chemistry between Judy and Nick, yes they go through the whole hate each other at first tradition and they make a lot of Smart-Alecky remarks at one another, but in time they become oddball partners and want to help each other out. It’s an odd team-up, seeing how rabbits are seen as the prey for foxes, but it’s kind of a similar relationship to Shrek and Donkey or Woody and Buzz from Toy Story.
It’s hard to say if it’s as great as Disney films like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, or The Lion King, but I can certainly consider it to be one of their best CG films alongside Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, and some of those other films, and it beats Chicken Little by a long shot. It’s a world of animals that needs to be seen to believe.