Film review, by Claire Durrant, of the latest Disney animated film, that depicts an animal metropolis and the anthropomorphic inhabitants that live within it.
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Directors: Byron Howard, Rich Moore. (108mins). Walt Disney Pictures. (PG)
Cast & credits
Producer: Clark Spencer.
Writers: Byron Howard, Jared Bush, Rich Moore, Phil Johnston, et al.
Music: Michael Giacchino.
Sets: David Goetz.
Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, J.K. Simmons, Nate Torrence.
Since she was a child, Judy Hopps (Goodwin) has always wanted to become the first rabbit police officer. After much determination and work, she accomplishes her goals and is moved to the police department in Zootropolis. However her new colleagues and Chief Bogo (Elba) diminish her due to her size. After volunteering to find a missing otter without the Chief’s permission, he gives Hopps an ultimatum: solve the case in 48 hours or else she is fired. Her only lead is Nick Wilde (Bateman), a sly con artist fox who was one of the few animals to see the otter last before his disappearance. After much coercing, he agrees to team up with Hopps.
A neo-noir style, detective film with animated cute animals? It’s like Disney looked at my film collection and YouTube history and blended the two together.
Sitting down at the Cineworld unlimited screening for Zootropolis (Zootopia in the U.S, apparently the UK needed a different title for the film) I was pleasantly surprised for two reasons. One, there was a lack of children clearly too young to sit through a film without a fuss. Two, adults no longer feel the need to bring their children to see a Disney film.
Animated films are now becoming more successful at perfectly balancing humour and a story that appeals to all ages. Consequently, adults can genuinely enjoy watching them. Zootropolis is a perfect example of this.
The adult in-jokes are plentiful. From nude yoga, to DMV workers portrayed as sloths, and amazingly even a Breaking Bad easter egg, older audience members will easily find amusement. But the film still has many silly aspects that children will also enjoy.
Zootropolis itself is fun to explore. What I liked about this film, was that all the animals were to scale. So seeing how an animal such as a mouse can live in the same town as a giraffe is imaginative and entertaining. All the animals talk and behave like humans but seeing their animalistic quirks added to the playfulness of the story.
But even with the film’s lighthearted tone, the film also tackles the serious and significant themes of prejudices, racism and segregation that still flaw our society. A cheetah calls Judy “cute” in which she replies, a rabbit may call another rabbit “cute” but it’s not okay for any other species to say it. Sure, it’s a little on the nose, but it gets the message across.
The film begins with a historical play in which a young Judy teaches us that the animal kingdom is split between the savage predators and the helpless pray. Yet, even though the animals have evolved to live in harmony, the “prey” will always live in fear of the “predators”. Judy, a rabbit, must put aside her unintentional prejudices towards Nick, a fox, as she teams up with him to solve the mystery. All the while learning that prey can become savage just as predators can become helpless. How’s that for a deep and awesome Disney message?!
The chemistry between the two leads is what lends the film its charm. The animation and casting both work well along side one another in creating these fascinating characters. Goodwin excels in voicing Hopps’ eagerness, enthusiasm and excitement. And of course
Bateman will always succeed in yielding in his known wit and cynicism.
Director Howard had previously worked on one of my favourite modern Disney films Tangled (2010) which also saw a duo with undeniable chemistry. There just seems to be something that works in film when you pit an optimist next to a pessimist.
This film has genuinely surprised me. With its deep themes and messages, fleshed out story and memorable lead characters, it’s safe to say that Disney has yet again succeeded in producing another critically acclaimed feature. Not just one of the more popular of the recent animated films, but also one of the most important.
See the official trailer on Youtube.