Reviewed by John Hussey.
I know this review is a bit late but what the heck. Zootropolis, or Zootopia as it is known in the States, is a wonderful new addition to the Disney franchise. When it comes to modern Disney I really don’t know where I stand. The company disappoints me because it rarely produces anything decent or original anymore, instead resorting to cheaply put together, cliché ridden Princess stories (I’m looking at you Frozen).
So naturally it makes me extremely happy when a Disney film like Zootropolis comes along. Now I know that Disney also make me happy with their distribution of Marvel movies, Star Wars movies and even Pixar movies, but when Disney themselves produce something worthwhile then I’m over the moon. The last great movie they produced for me was Wreck it Ralph. That film went about to create something that I felt was directly aimed at me and it was nice to see Disney exit their comfort zone. But alas it is the Princess films that get all the spotlight and it depresses me because they have less originality.
Zootropolis, my new favourite Disney film, doesn’t go as far as Wreck it Ralph in terms of new content but it does hold its own and creates a brand new world, similar to Wreck it Ralph. Although we have seen animated animal movies a million times before Zootropolis really goes that extra mile to create something refreshing. This was established all the way back in their first teaser in June, 2015. And I was invested because it looked fun and, most importantly, different.
The animation, for me, is where the film stands out. Every character and shot are put together perfectly. You can tell a lot of time and effort was put into this. And not only that you can tell a lot of research went into the making of the film through the way all the different species of animals work and interact with one another and their surroundings.
The film cleverly integrates animals into a human-styled world. They all have jobs, live in houses, pay taxes etc. and it all works wonderfully. It’s even great how the film has every animal walking on two legs like humans. Of course another unique factor is there are no humans. The world of Zootropolis is purely populated with animals.
The narrative follows Judy Hopps, who is a bunny with life-long ambitions to become a cop. Naturally she does fulfil her dream but the film isn’t about how she becomes a cop and rather explores how she deals with being one. It makes for a better narrative especially because she is the first bunny cop and has to deal with the flak Chief Bogo, voiced by Idris Elba. Instead of being allowed to join in with the missing animal’s case she is given the assignment of parking duty.
What I love about Judy is her bubbly personality. She is always determined but unlike Joy from Inside Out who could become too bubbly Judy displays flaws to which she addresses. Judy has so much characterisation and every scene and every change of personality is fun and sad to watch. You become invested by her from the moment she is introduced. She’s fun, smart and above all kind. But again she isn’t without her flaws and that’s what makes her so loveable. When she eventually realises she has made a massive mistake in her line of duty she punishes herself for it and goes out of her way to apologise to the person she upset. Above all I love her floppy ears.
Moving onto Nick Wilde. His character is another fantastic addition to the film because, like Judy, he is filled with so many layers of personality. You assume at first he is a loving father but it quickly turns out he’s a hustler. This makes you question his character for a while as you assume he is nothing more than a selfish person out to make a score. As the film progresses you find out that there is more to him than meets the eye. He comes to warm up to Judy, with the reason being that he loves the idea that another animal doesn’t judge him for being a fox.
Through a very depressing flashback scene we witness a young Nick being bullied because he is a fox, with the bullies going as far as putting a harness over his face. This showcases the core aspect of the film. Zootropolis tries to get across the negativity of discrimination and prejudice. The film shows that a bunny can become a brave, independent individual and a fox can be more than a sly, devious predator.
The narrative itself was nicely written. The trailers, for once, don’t spoil anything and in fact lead you on a red-herring. Come half way through the movie I was actually clueless as to where the narrative was heading which was refreshing. You assumed by the trailers that the big bad of the film was going to be a mafia boss called Mr. Big. The funny twist of his character was him being a tiny arctic shrew. However, through amusing misunderstandings Mr. Big isn’t the baddie of the film and the narrative actually thickens into some dark storytelling.
The predators of Zootropolis begin to go savage and it’s up to Judy and Nick to figure out what is happening. This again leads back into the film’s message about discrimination and prejudice. Judy creates problems after she begins to unravel the case, causing mass panic in the city of Zootropolis as they begin to discriminate the predator class. This in turn leads to Nick feeling betrayed by Judy as he reveals to her that she didn’t fully trust him.
This eventually leads into one of the best scenes in the film where Judy apologises for her actions to Nick. It is genuinely emotional and made even more brilliant when Nick decides to use Judy’s trick of recording information to blackmail people, to which she had done to Nick previously, against her to make a point. In that moment their friendship is truly sealed and life-lessons are learnt. What I love also is this wasn’t a love story. It was about friendship and the two of them have great chemistry onscreen, even before they were considered friends. This was made complete by the superb voice acting of Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman.
The resolution of the film was again surprising and it was very clever when the baddie was revealed. Their motives are somewhat justified, again re-establishing the film’s core themes. What is also nice is how the equilibrium rebalances itself at the end in the most beautiful way. You feel the world has changed and life-lessons are learnt, which in a way you want to see in real life. I absolutely loved where the film left Judy and Nick and it made me extremely happy and satisfied.
Zootropolis was without a doubt a complete success. I loved this film to bits and couldn’t recommend it more. The film was beautiful in its look and design, the music was great, the characters were spot on and the narrative was both entertaining and informative. The themes were integrated in a way that you weren’t left feeling preached at and instead you embraced the ideas and loved how they applied to the narrative and the characters.
The narrative has a few comical moments, like Mr. Big’s appearances and that of Flash the sloth, but mostly I loved how serious the film was and how deep it could go. It really did leave an impact, so much so that I was all up for seeing it again with my girlfriend. And the second viewing was even better. Also the film’s song “Try Everything” by Shakira was very good and added to the film’s beauty. Finally I love how Zootropolis takes pride in being something different and actually calls out the Princess genre with Bogo’s line, “Life isn’t some cartoon musical where you sing a little song and your insipid dreams magically come true. So Let It Go.”