“Like nothing you’ve seen be-fur.”
Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush
Starring Giniffer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Jenny Slate and Shakira
Country rabbit Judy Hopps (Goodwin) dreams of becoming a cop in Zootropolis, the cosmopolitan capital of a world of anthropomorphic animals far removed from its primal roots. Montaging her way through the academy, she wrestles with the prejudice of her boss (Elba) and the machinations of vulpine hustler Nick Wilde (Bateman) before landing a career-making missing mammal case with the help of Dawn Bellweather (Slate), the put-upon assistant of blowhard Mayor Lionheart (Simmons).
With a little hustle of her own, Judy ropes Nick into helping her track a missing otter and uncovers a seeming plague of savagery among the city’s predators. When she realises that she has only succeeded in deepening the rift between predators and prey, however, she quits the force, before returning to try to fix what she has unwittingly done.
What’s wrong with it?
Parents be aware, this film contains some serious, four-star, old-fashioned, high-octane, fully-leaded nightmare fuel. The feral predators in general are pretty damned alarming, but the denouement contains one particular image which will scar your children for life.
Although it’s about how prejudice is bad, it can’t resist a few shots at particular species when there’s a gag in it – wolves are compulsive howlers, sloths are super slow – and there’s an irony in Gazelle (Shakira), the celebrity who protests against prejudice, identifying herself solely and exclusively by her species.
What’s right with it?
Okay, somebody put way too much thought into the world of Zootropolis. It’s not just in the publicity either, there’s an array of pirated DVDs on Duke Weaselton’s mat including Wrangled and Wreck-It Rhino.
A lot of modern family films have content for the parents slipped past the radar, and there’s a lot of that in here. It’s a pretty sophisticated piece of work, even if some of the jokes aren’t (“I’m just a dumb bunny, but we are good at multiplying.”)
The film’s basic thesis – species = race, prejudice = bad – is simple, but the execution is actually quite subtle, and manages to include unthinking racism among its targets, and to do so without being too didactic.
It’s packed with gags, most of which hit the mark, from the chief ‘acknowledging the elephant in the room’ to the seedy spiv (played by Alan Tudyk) insisting his name is Duke Weaselton, not Weselton.
The animals are basically animal shaped, with a resulting variety of body forms and little or no gratuitously anthropomorphic cleavage.
How bad is it really?
It’s really, really good. It’s sharp, funny, and has a real punch and purpose to its satire. It is one to be careful of with younger children, however.
Best bit (if such there is)?
It’s hard to choose, if I’m honest, but my daughter’s favourite was the train station scene, because it has giraffes in it.
What’s up with…?
- The Zootopia question? A lot of people call it that by mistake, since it feels like a title that ought to be a pun. Judging by the spoof poster for Straight Otter Zootopia, either the filmmakers also made the mistake, or Zootopia is a suburb largely occupied by a ghettoised species of some kind.
ETA – Okay, actually it turns out the film is called Zootopia, but was retitled and redubbed as needed for some international territories, including the UK. so weird. Thanks to Ian for pointing this out. In China it’s called Crazy Animal City.
- REM? Are we saying that every world that reaches a certain level of development gets an REM?
Production values – This is Disney, so it’s gorgeous. 0
Dialogue and performances – The performances are crackerjack, and the script is a heady mix of political satire and rapid-fire one shot gags. There’s barely a bum note in the chorus. 2
Plot and execution – There are a couple of points where the film gives in to the temptation to make a species gag which slightly undermines its general thesis, but overall it’s a good story, tightly told and wound up with its message instead of overwhelmed by it. 2
Randomness – REM? 1
Waste of potential – There have been a lot of anthropomorphic animal films; Disney has made a few of them. This is one of the best. 1