After the absolute clusterfuck that was the ’00s, Disney’s really pulled themselves together these past few years. Tangled was a runaway hit, Wreck-It Ralph was a phenomenon, and Frozen remains one of the highest-grossing movies of all time. Hell, they’ve had a better track record this decade than Pixar. So it’s really no surprise that Zootopia turned out to be a smash hit. But how is Zootopia?
Pretty solid. Maybe not as good as Wreck-It Ralph (which shares a director, Rich Moore, with Zootopia), but definitely a really entertaining movie.
The plot is a tale as old as time. Ginnifer Goodwin voices Judy Hopps, who is just a small-town girl, living in a lonely world. She took the midnight train to Zootopia, hoping to become the first bunny police officer. Unfortunately, anti-rabbit prejudice prevents her from being a “real” officer, and she is forced into traffic duty. Her luck turns around when she meets Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), who is just a city fox born and raised in south Zootopia. He’s also a master con artist and tax evader whom Judy blackmails into helping her find a missing person. You know, for kids!
The city of Zootopia itself is wonderful. It’s really vibrant and fun and massive. Through Judy, we find ourselves stupefied by all the streetlights, people, living just to find emotion. The film also pulls a Bee Movie, conveying a strong message about racial prejudice under the thick layer of animal puns and questionable family movie material.
The film isn’t perfect by any means. For what is ultimately a buddy cop movie, it doesn’t really have very good action. It has a really good script, full of references that the primary audience wouldn’t get (Breaking Bad, Godfather, etc.), but the plot is pretty all-over-the-place. What I do appreciate is that it has a really nice sense of scale. It identifies three major size classifications for animals and does a really good job putting you in all their perspectives.
It also really struggles with identifying a villain. There’s the police chief, who embodies the prejudices that Judy faces. He believes that some will win, some will lose, and while it’s never shown explicitly, we must assume that some are born to sing the blues. There’s also Mayor Lionheart, who tried to help the people of Zootopia and gets arrested for some reason. I won’t give away any spoilers, but another villain is given away in the last ten minutes or so. It’s frustrating.
Overall, I’d still give the movie a B+. It’s a really sweet, entertaining, and exciting film with a few glaring problems but a great underlying message, telling kids to not judge a book by its cover, to give everyone a chance regardless of race, religion, or whatever else, and never to “stop believing,” as it were. See it if you haven’t already, or if you have and you liked it a lot.