By Jack Dignan
Disney have always been a company that broadens our imaginations, turning mature aged people into little kids, singing and dancing to their favourite Lion King songs. For decades now, they've managed to make audiences laugh, cry, feel young and be moved, and no matter how many films they release, they always manage to exceed expectations. With Zootopia, Disney have created a world in which there are no humans. It's a world of animals, these animals living their days as we would, and despite this unusual premise, they've somehow managed to craft an excellent and relatable film that I can't wait to watch again.
We focus in on the story of Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), a bunny rabbit who moves from her family farm and country town to the city of Zootopia, where she will become the first ever bunny cop. Because she's a bunny, and because bunnies aren't normally cops, she's put in charge of parking, but this works in her favour as it leads her to a missing persons case, where predator animals have started going savage and disappearing. With 48 hours to complete the case, her job on the line and all of the police force doubting her abilities, Judy enlists the help of a local fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a sly hustler who's the only lead in the case. It's a race against the clock as she must figure out where the animals are going and what's making them turn savage, or else she'll have to quit her job and give up on her dreams forever.
Zootopia is a thematically deep buddy cop film that works. With this film, Disney explores themes of racism, telling it as truthfully as it is in reality, but using animals to do so. The film's themes will resonate with people of all ages, although it's the older audience that may benefit immediately from it. Younger audiences will already be drawn in by the talking animals, and while the message will certainly get to them, it may not impact them for a few years, but this is far from a bad thing. Disney, like they have many times before, have planted a seed from which a better way of living will soon grow.
Thematically deep, but also bouncy and colourful, Zootopia is a joyful watch with plenty of laughs. The character designs, as with all Disney movies, are wonderful, suiting the style and tone of the film, as well as creating a vibrant and well thought out world. I never want animations to look 100% photorealistic, and so the style of Zootopia is about as great as I'd want it to be. It's a fun movie and while a small fraction of the jokes hit as well as they could've, the ones that do work well, and add in a few pop culture references here and there and you've got a hit on your hands. Bravo, Disney. Bravo.
One of the standout scenes in the film was the scene in which Judy and Nick go get a number plate traced, as seen in the trailer that I have attached below. This trailer is what sold me on the film, making me laugh harder than any trailer last year, but also selling me on the idea of this film. This sloth scene is the absolute best scene in the movie, and the best parts are still well hidden. If you loved the sloth trailer, you're going to love this movie. It's jokes like that, but for a solid hour and a half, and it's just a thoroughly entertaining movie, the jokes occasionally more adult than you'd expect.
What Disney are great at doing is creating iconic characters, and with Zootopia, they've done it once again. The supporting cast are far and in-between, some working really well, such as Idris Elba's police captain and Nate Torrence's receptionist, and some working not so well, such as J.K. Simmons' underused mayor who has about three minutes of screen time all up. It's the main characters, however, who make this film as good as it is. They're developed and emotionally investing, and their stories touched my heart, moving me in more ways than one. I didn't expect to, but I absolutely adored Jason Bateman's character in this film. His backstory and character arc is truly something.
There's a moment early on in Zootopia where Judy confronts Nick, and it's during this scene, and no, this isn't a spoiler, where Nick mocks Judy, explaining how familiar her life story sounds. He may have been making a joke, but he's not wrong. His description of this movie's outcome isn't necessarily correct, but he raises a fair point. The overall narrative for this film isn't anything all that new. At its core, it's a typical buddy cop film that follows the genre conventions, and while Disney put their own spin on the story and give it enough depth and humour to make it work, it does feel familiar at times. Not all the time, but certainly some of the time.
To sum up, Zootopia is a family friendly film about talking animals that's thematically deeper and more adult than you'd expect it to be, full of laughs and touching moments. It's an entertaining movie with a little something for everyone, and the sloth scene is my favourite thing ever.