Zootopia

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Preachiness aside, this is a good movie.
★★★
Movie Review #1,076

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Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Animation, Action, Adventure. Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes. Rated PG for some thematic elements, rude humor and action. Released March 4, 2016. Directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore. Co-director: Jared Bush. Produced by Clark Spencer.  Story by Byron Howard & Rich Moore & Jared Bush & Jim Reardon & Josie Trinidad & Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee. Screenplay by Jared Bush & Phil Johnston. Starring the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Tommy Chong, J.K. Simmons, Shakira, Raymond S. Persi, Della Saba, Maurice LaMarche, Kath Soucie, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Octavia Spencer, and Alan Tudyk.

Wouldn’t we all love a world where everything is perfect and everybody loves each other for who they are? Sure we would. The message that “Zootopia” delivers is that even in a city that is meant to be utopic, you’re going to fail at implementing that. It’d be silly to act like equality is just going to happen overnight, or even over a matter of a few years. It’s good to see a movie, particularly a Disney movie aimed primarily at kids, get real with this sad truth. However, it’s clearly pushing toward a different reality. I don’t want to come off as anti-equality when I say that “Zootopia” is pushing equality on us. Equality is a great thing if it ever comes to being, but nobody likes having anything shoved down their throats, even if they agree with it. That’s precisely where “Zootopia” falters most critically. The theme of everybody treating everybody equally is something we can’t really appreciate, even ostensibly, when it’s delivered in a preachy manner.

Not since “Crash” has a movie promoted equality so sanctimoniously. “Zootopia” is also equally overrated, but I grant you it’s not so much of a disaster as “Crash” was. There’s a decent plot here. Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a rabbit from Bunnyburrow who has always dreamed of becoming an officer at the Zootopia Police Department. Everyone from her peers to her parents have discouraged her from this. No bunny has ever become a police officer; it’s almost laughable to pretty much everybody but her. Regardless, Judy pursues her dream, and soon enough, she has become the first-ever rabbit police officer. Her biggest surprise is that Zootopia isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The city was built with the intention of being a place where everybody is equal, but when she arrives there, she realizes that the reality is far from that. She realizes that foxes, in particular, face heavy discrimination. From her past experiences with foxes, as well as their history as predators, she should be most afraid of them. But instead, she chooses to embrace one particular fox (Jason Bateman), who takes up her invitation to work alongside her in a certain investigation, involving an animal who has gone missing.

“Zootopia” is an entertaining picture. It’s the kind of wholesome animated feature we want from Disney. The voice cast is terrific. Between the chipper personality of Ginnifer Goodwin, relatively unknown to the cinematic world, and the wit of Jason Bateman, there’s pretty great duo fronting the rest of the cast here. Let’s not forget Idris Elba as Zootopia’s chief of police, a stern, hardheaded buffalo, and J.K. Simmons as the city’s mayor. The film delivers a number of great performances, but those four stand out above everybody else here. Putting aside how preachy it can get, the script is also fantastic. Jared Bush and Phil Johnston have worked as a team for Disney before, with “Wreck-It Ralph”, and now their clever writing shines once again. Disney Animation’s lifelong goal has been to make family movies, not kids’ movies. It’s easy to confuse the two, and the difference is that a family movie can be enjoyed by kids and parents alike. Again, perhaps the overtness of the overall message “Zootopia” presents might put parents off a little, but that aside, this is a pretty decent example of a true family movie.

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