By Gary Murray
Starring the voice talent of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman and Idris Elba
Written by Jared Bush and Phil Johnston
Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush
Running time 108 min
MPAA Rating G
Selig Film Rating FULL PRICE
Disney has somehow decided to hand over all the kid-friendly flicks to that juggernaut 500 lb. gorilla that is Pixar. The company has seldom made a film that did not make 100 million or be in a top ten list by some major critic. The animated film with just the Disney banner have somehow felt hokum and rural. Well, Disney decided to step up to the cinematic plate and hit one into the outfield seats. That film comes with the strange name of Zootopia.
The film opens with a small bunny telling the tale of the movie. There were predators and prey back in the Stone Age. Well over the millions of years, animals have evolved into speaking and thinking beasts that coexist.
They live in a modern world. Young Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a dreamer bunny who wants to be the first of her kind to become a cop in the giant city of Zootopia. Judy lives the mantra that “anyone can be anything” and exists by that idea. She will be the first cop bunny and the first prey to make officer in one of the most deadly jobs around.
In a flash she is an adult and through the police academy, first in her class. But she soon finds out that being accepted by her fellow animals is not as easy as the training. Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) puts the little furry one on parking duty which is the lowest rung on the ladder. Even though the aggressive rookie fur ball shows some strong imitative in a few hours, she longs for a bigger case.
Very soon, she meets Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a fox who is a scoundrel and a scam artist. Judy has been taught not to trust foxes but she does not believe in the old stereotype. Nick cons her, showing Judy the first instance that Zootopia is not a utopia. The animals get along but they do not get along well. There is a strong degree of animosity between the different areas of the giant city. They are kept in order by the Zootopia Police Force.
Without giving too much away, the two become a mismatched partnership in the investigation of the missing weasel. This leads them to a much larger missing animal situation.
As they investigate a single crime, it leads to much bigger and more convoluted case of night howlers. Just as the two think they have figured out everything, another hairpin turn is thrown their way. The third act starts sad right before it kicks into a rollicking finish that is sure to please even the most intense of action junkies.
First off, this is one of the most beautiful cinematic experiences in a long time. The colors just explode off the screen with an artistic flair. Each part of the Zootopia metropolis is a unique land and every one is done justice. There are sight jokes in just about every frame that will require multiple views just to catch.
The film follows the 1980s cop flick style but puts a humorous coat on top of the formula. This movie has many moments of hard belly laughs that satisfy even the hardest of sour faces. It is joke upon joke while still giving us action sequences galore. The writing team of Jared Bush and Phil Johnston give the audience a generous amount of different elements while still being entertaining.
There are references to just about half a dozen different classic flicks as the film goes along. While some may not catch all the bits of films from decades gone past, the film geek and fan boy junkies will be pleased with all the slight and sight cues.
There are some strong vocal talents in Zootopia but they are not the kind of voices where the audience goes “Hey, it’s that person” while watching the film. Jason Bateman plays a sly fox with such a grace that one begins to wonder why he doesn’t work in animated features more often. Bonnie Hunt, J.K. Simmons and Tommy Chong all have small parts but still do outstanding work. But, the heart and soul of Zootopia falls upon the voice of Ginnifer Goodwin and she does stellar work. It is amazing how the audience becomes attached to her character in just a few words.
Even though they market just about every kids flick in 3D to make some extra money. Zootopia is one of the few films that deserve the spare coins. The cinematic experience is layered so that it feels like a real city and not a computer generated world. The colors are rich to a degree that Pixar only wishes it could accomplish. One believes this is a real place and wishes they could visit it.
Zootopia is one of my favorite films in 2016 and may still be there by the end of the year. It has everything that someone expects from the best of Disney, which is a family friendly joyful motion picture experience. It will thrill the youngest of views and still have something for the parents and grandparents. There is nothing that will offend anyone and will entertain just about everyone.