Zootropolis – Review

Hustle And Bustle

This creative blast of an animation combines all the best qualities of Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks in a funny, clever and heartfelt film about inclusiveness and diversity.

PG, 108 mins

****½

If you dared to say that you lived in a perfect world, you’d most likely be called hopping mad – which, incidentally, is exactly how the main protagonist of new Disney film Zootropolis would be described. Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a young small-town rabbit who dreams of being a police officer in the titular big city, where predators live alongside prey in harmony, aspirations become reality and life is a bed of roses. Aside from when it isn’t, as one character quips. Full of hope, Judy bounds through training and makes it onto the Police Force in Zootropolis, only to find that strolling the beat isn’t all she thought it would be.

Our determined bunny is soon thrown headlong into a fast-moving and often messy adventure involving a raft of missing predator cases, running into sardonic fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) along the way. As the film goes from family comedy to buddy movie to old-fashioned crime thriller and back again, you can’t help but be enthralled. For some the mash-up might be cause for concern, but there are laughs aplenty, never fear. Zootropolis knows what it’s doing. It retains the heart and charm of classic Disney adventures whilst also boasting Pixar’s emotional heft, some Aardman-esque visual gags and DreamWorks’ fearless approach to borrowing from – and aping – other animated films. All of the above, plus some nice narrative touches and creative details that are all the film’s own, make a combo that is quite irresistible.

But at its heart, Zootropolis is about more than just the jokes. There is much that will make all audiences laugh, but there’s also a pertinent message here about diversity and differences. In fact, it’s so pertinent to this moment in time that several quotes feel as though they should be soundbytes, referring variously to stereotypes, fear and the overall complexity of life. As such, it’s no real surprise to see that Jennifer Lee, one of the writers of Frozen, and John Lasseter of Pixar were involved. But that’s not all – the film is also very clever in its overall story, with nods to big crime films as the twisting plot develops. Not since 2007’s Meet the Robinsons has the storyline of a Disney caper been so intelligent. Zootropolis is a family film that knows how to hustle, and will keep everyone on their toes.

Given all of this, it’s a good thing that the characters work well together too. The interplay between Judy and Nick is very snappy, due in part to the charismatic voice work, and the eventual emotional pay-off between the characters is very well-earned. The ending (as per much of the rest of the film) just leaves you beaming, and Zootropolis as a whole makes me hopeful that modern Disney can be as consistently creative as Pixar.

It is to the film’s credit that, after a while, the bustling metropolis at its heart feels like a place where anything can happen (as per all big cities). To expand on any of the detail would be to spoil the ride, so my keyboard is sealed. Suffice it to say that Zootropolis is a film to savour, that brings a smile to your face and a spark to your mind. You leave the cinema with hope that what happens in the film could yet happen out in the real world. You also come out convinced (mostly due to a very clever blending of genres) that there ain’t no such thing as ‘just a kids film’ any more. The Mickey Mouse studio has dared to take the Mickey out of itself, and in the process has carried off the ultimate heist – on the viewer’s expectations.

Zootropolis, then, is a hybrid vehicle, combining elements of many different things but remaining its own madcap, funny animal, fuelled by both a sense of fun and a sense of meaningfulness. The film does very infrequently lose its way, becoming too pseudo-inspirational, or sounding overly preachy, but this can be easily forgiven, as it has quite a balancing act to deal with. The song which acts as the film’s theme exhorts the protagonists to ‘Try Everything’. Zootropolis certainly does that, and, for the most part, it succeeds. So whatever you do, do not go into this particular Disney film expecting merely cute and cuddly – it’s got a sting in the tale. I would leave expectations at the door and go and listen to the animals, as they might surprise you.

Alex Nicholson

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