Family/Adventure, 108 Minutes, 2016
Consider this: A movie radically changes its premise well over a year into production, with less than 18 months to release. To support this, a secondary character is promoted to lead and a new director is brought in to partner with the existing crew. All of this comes from a team of no less than 10 writers. The entire perspective of the film altered.
The question: is this movie is a hot, steaming mess?
Oddly enough: No, it isn’t. It’s actually pretty damn great (although it’s difficult to imagine that formula working reliably).
Zootopia is a gleaming, modern metropolis where the animals of the world – both predator and prey – live together in harmony. An optimistic Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin [IMDB]), realizes her dream of becoming the first bunny police officer in the city. Not taken seriously by her peers, she’s forced to enlist the help of conman Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman [IMDB]), a fox who’s decided to live up to the stereotype he’s been saddled with, to solve a series of disappearances.
The movie is as gorgeous and richly realized as we’ve come to expect from the Disney team. More importantly, the world is deftly built. Similar to Monsters, Inc. [IMDB], it’s designed to support a radically varied population and much of the humor is based on this. The movie doesn’t shy away from the obvious gag, but it presents it in an organic, natural way not often seen in children’s films.
Like any good fable, Zootopia injects complex, and often ugly, social truths into its narrative. While far from subtle, it’s also far from preachy. The message is clear and sincerely delivered and never forced or saccharine. We’re not simply told that it’s wrong to assume bunnies can’t be powerful or foxes can’t be trusted, its demonstrated.
Zootopia backs its masterful world-building and social education with gorgeous visuals and a surprisingly snappy script. It’s a shame that some of the best gags were spoiled (repeatedly) in the trailers, but it’s also surprising how well they hold up in context. Flash the sloth bursting slowly into laughter is hilarious every single time.