Movie Review: Zootopia

I had only briefly heard about Zootopia when it was first announced, and upon seeing the trailer for the first time I was afraid of it feeling similar to something like Over the Hedge where a group of animals would go on some sort of adventure. What we ended up getting here is a solid whodunit buddy cop movie that deals with bullying, race relations and racial profiling, all while being both hilarious and charming at the same time.

Judy Hopps, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin, is a young bunny with a dream: To be a Police Officer. When she realizes that dream, and becomes the first bunny cop in Zootopia’s history, she’s forced to work as a meter maid while the rest of the police force is investigating a dozen or so high profile missing person cases, and she starts to wonder if she can truly make a difference.

While on the job, Judy meets Nick Wilde, a cunning con-artist of a fox voiced to perfection by Jason Bateman. I found it amusing that Nick has a strong resemblance to Disney’s own animated Robin Hood. Through some luck and a bit of blackmail, the two embark on an adventure to solve a missing persons case that snowballs into a giant conspiracy, and with a 48 hour timer and her job on the line, they have to act fast.

The relationship between Judy and Nick grows naturally and the two of them have some amazing scenes together. Judy is impressionable, optimistic and relentless in her quest to serve and protect, while Nick is cocky, sly and only looks out for himself. I thoroughly enjoyed these two, as the large majority of the movie is just between this duo as they attempt to put the pieces together and find the missing Otter. There are a few key scenes between Judy and Nick that are extremely powerful and emotional and I have to give credit to the filmmakers as they knocked it out of the park with these two.

Zootopia is one of the more fun animated movies I have seen in a while, with nearly all the jokes landing and feeling earned. The script is fun, witty and well paced. I found it surprising to see such an adult topic like racial profiling here, and it is, to full effect. The movie doesn’t dwell too much on these heavy subjects and doesn’t come across preachy in the slightest. There is a scene at the start that deals with bullying, and it ended far more violent than I assumed they would have gone with it, but they did and it’s handled well.

The secondary cast here is fairly ok, but not completely solid. Idris Elba’s Police Chief Bogo is one of my favorites, as are Judy’s parents, who are content being carrot farmers and talk a lot about giving up on your dreams to avoid being let down when they don’t happen. Then there is Mayor Lionheart voiced by J.K. Simmons, and his glorified secretary Bellwether who, while both good, just didn’t have much material to work with compared to the others. Other than that there isn’t much more to the cast, except Clawhauser, who just comes off as a complete rip off of Po from Kung Fu Panda, personality and all. Shakira is here to lend her voice and well and I’ll leave it up to you to see who she is, though, don’t be too surprised.

I was really impressed with how great the movie looks, even if the 3D itself wasn’t terribly impressive. Characters and environments are rich and full of color and have nice detail. Some scenes in the street are a bit too empty for a large city, and most of the scenes involving other animals are reserved for areas like the robbery chase and Judy’s introduction to Zootopia. I also loved the fact that Zootopia itself is split up into various sections like jungle, desert or snow filled neighborhoods. It’s a shame that we see so little of them, but that’s something they can explore in any sequels, or even a TV series.

I really enjoyed Zootopia and found very little to not like about it. It has some strong themes that may have seemed out of place in an animated movie but they are handled here with extreme care and feels like a natural fit for the story and its characters. The snappy pace and constant humor lends itself well as the laughs feel completely earned. Disney has a solid franchise here with amazing potential, so I am sure that some time down the road, we will see another case for Judy Hopps and her ‘whether he likes it or not’ partner, Nick Wilde.

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