Between Rich Moore, Byron Howard, and credited co-director, Jared Bush; I don’t know who to credit the insanity of Zootopia to. Maybe I should thank the seven (that’s right) co-writers on this film that include the previous names. How this film didn’t end up being a disaster is crazy. The fact that Zootopia ended up being the most thought provoking, if not heavy handed, Disney film in a very long time is astonishing.
Jason Bateman and Ginnifer Goodwin star as Nicholas P. Wilde and Officer Judy Hopps. Hopps is a newly recruiter police officer assigned to the major city, Zootopia. Being the first rabbit officer, Hopps must show that she deserves to be where she is and make sure that she gives everything she has to show it, as most Disney movies would. Wilde is a con-artist fox (you see where this is going) that is a nuisance to the new police officer assigned to parking ticket duty. Unsatisfied with her duties, she follows a lead on the fox and the two become embroiled in a kidnapping plot and eventually become trusted allies across the way.
Truthfully, I wasn’t too enthused about this film after reading that synopsis before the film and even now, it’s still kind of pathetic. But within that cookie cutter story lies a message that, while overt, is able to talk about something important without feeling incredibly shoved into the plot. And that is generally what makes messages such an issue in animated family films. The message must come across to the kids, while still finding moments of fun in the process. It’s really the fun process that Zootopia has difficulty with.
Knowing the family friendly Disney studio, racism would seemingly be a big taboo, most likely deemed too difficult and risky of a subject to center a film around (Disney have had a few issues with such things *cough* Song of the South *cough*). The directors and screenwriters were able to craft a worthy film on the subject, without making it feel unnatural. Now the problem with Zootopia isn’t the message; it’s how hard the movie tries to shove set pieces into it. The first official trailer revolved around a scene involving the DMV and Sloths running it (easy joke, but still effective). It’s an incredibly funny scene, and it’s obvious why the marketing revolved around it at that point, but it was worrisome that there wasn’t any look at any kind of adventure.
In fact, nearly every set piece is comedic. Between an ongoing Godfather reference, to the Wolves as they infiltrate a base, there are a few moments of true tension. That being said, there is a fun little chase sequence between Hopps and a weasel voiced by the always great Alan Tudyk. Most of those moments though, fall flat and don’t help the momentum of the 108 minute long film. Desperate to feel short, Zootopia ends a little too fast for the realizations of the lead characters to feel entirely natural.
If there’s anything that feels completely natural, it’s the voice cast. Zootopia doesn’t feature a very star studded cast that would overshadow the film with their recognizable voices, but it has a line-up of great actors. Among the already mentioned Bateman, Goodwin and, Tudyk, we also get Tommy Chong in a short scene playing a laid-back character (if Disney is going to get into racism, I wonder when they’re going to let Chong play a character that openly smokes weed), Nate Torrance of Hello Ladies fame, playing an obese cheetah working dispatch at the police station, and Idris Elba has a particularly fun role as the buffalo chief of the station. There are so many stand outs, and it makes it even harder to not be entertained by this cast.
Despite the film being a detective story revolving around the jokes instead of the set pieces (possibly for the better), Zootopia is a deceptively smart film that wants to have a conversation about racism and classes of society. It may not feature an in depth conversation, but the movie strikes a balance between the family film fun and the thematic content. While I think it could have been a little more fun, I’d have a hard time seeing someone who wouldn’t enjoy this film and everything it has in it.
- Disney has created a very important film that will also please the kids
- The voice cast is phenomenal
- Social commentary is abundant, yet not forced unnaturally
- Animation is superb
- Despite natural social commentary, it is very ham-fisted
- Not as entertaining as past Disney films
- Purpose of story will probably go over kids heads
[…] Dylan also saw Disney’s Zootopia, which just so happens to deal with race as well. And the duo discuss A Vice Guide to Film, a new show on Viceland. Other talking points include JK Simmons as the new Commissioner Gordon in Justice League, The Nice Guys getting a record release (and a limited XXX-wrap for it), Shane Black talking to Arnold Schwarzenegger possibly about casting for Predator, and there are some new Blu-ray releases including Victor Frankenstein, The Peanuts Movie, Victoria, The Tribe, and Paris Belongs to Us on Criterion. […]