Ever since she was a young bunny, Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin) dreamed of becoming a police officer, something her kind had never accomplished. With great determination, she graduates police academy at the top of her class, but when she goes to 'make the world a better place' in the big city, Chief Bogo (voice of Idris Elba) assigns her to parking meter detail. But her on the job apprehension of Duke Weaselton (voice of Alan Tudyk) and unlikely teaming with foxy con man Nick Wilde (voice of Jason Bateman) will lead to cracking Bogo's biggest case in "Zootopia."
What an unexpected surprise, a Disney animation with Orwellian anthropomorphic political allegory and a film noir backdrop not seen since Roger Rabbit was framed. The story and themes dealing with racial profiling and political fear mongering are timely if not small child friendly, but the tykes should enjoy the odd couple at the movie's center.
"Zootopia" is, of course, a turn on Utopia, which is how the young Judy views the big city where predator and prey live together in harmony. But once she leaves her parents' carrot farm, she finds that reality isn't as rosy as she'd believed. Her educational achievements are dismissed by her superior, who assigns only predator cops to his big case - that of fourteen missing predator residents of differing species. She's dressed down for leaving her post to nab a flower bulb thieving weasel and fired for insubordination when she tells one of the missing's wives, Mrs. Otterton (voice of Octavia Spencer), that she will find her husband. Only the actions of the supportive prey Assistant Mayor Bellwether (voice of Jenny Slate), a sheep, save her skin.
Not yet plugged in to the ZPD's support services, Nick's contacts prove invaluable as he helps Hopps trace a license plate at the DMV (humorously manned by slower-than-molasses sloths) and trace a suspect at a Naturalist Yoga spa (a joke that falls flat). Once they've traced the limo Otterton was last seen in, they discover two horrifying truths - savagery has returned to Zootopia and they are in the clutches of Mr. Big, the Don Corleone-like mole with an army of polar bear henchmen. Things get even worse when Judy and Nick actually find the missing as Judy inserts her lucky foot in her mouth during a press conference, a fed up Nicky turns his back on her and the real villain is revealed (which should surprise few).
Written by Jared Bush & Phil Johnston ("Wreck-It Ralph") and directed by Disney vets Byron Howard ("Bolt," "Tangled") and Rich Moore ("Wreck-It Ralph"), "Zootopia" takes place in a colorful world, from peaceful, rural Bunnyburrow to the bustling titular city sectioned into 'burrows' like Tundratown, Rodentia and Sahara Square. But while the writing is smart, it could be funnier, and the original song created for Zootopia's pop star Gazelle (Shakira) by composer Michael Giacchino ("Up") is bland. Vocal talent is strong, Bateman, Elba and Maurice LaMarche (Mr. Big) the cast standouts (others include J.K. Simmons as Mayor Lionhart, Tommy Chong as Yax, Nate Torrence as the donut-loving desk clerk Clawhauser and Bonnie Hunt as Judy's mom).
Creature animation is a workable mix of cartoonish facial features with realistic body detail. Daytime scenes can give one color overload, but night sequences have an effective film noir feel.
Robin did not see this film.
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