Film review: ZOOTOPIA, from ‘Built For Speed’

Disney’s Zootopia is one of the best animated films of recent years. Other recent films in this genre have contained sparkling photo-realistic animation, a few clever gags and some endearing characters but Zootopia has all these qualities combined with a clever film noir-like detective plot and a variety of thoughtful and positive messages.

Zootopia is set in an imaginary world inhabited entirely by animals where predators and their former prey have learned to live in harmony. It’s in this type of world that a cute bunny rabbit like Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) can at least aspire to become a police officer even though she still has to battle the prejudice of those who think a small, innocent-looking creature like her can’t be an effective cop. Assigned to the sprawling capital city of Zootopia, Judy, who is the only rabbit amid lion, tiger and bear cops, is relegated to demeaning traffic duties. When she decides to take on a mysterious missing person case, Judy, with the aid of sneaky streetwise fox, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) discovers a criminal conspiracy that reaches the upper echelons of Zootopian political power.

Zootopia is bursting with terrific visual gags based around the various animals’ quirks, the site of cute bunny Judy taking on hippopotamuses and rhinos in combat and of a customer service sloth working in super-slow motion at the motor vehicles bureau are particularly amusing. The film also features some wonderful movie-related gags with its Godfather parody a highlight.

Stars Goodwin and Bateman do superb voice work infusing their characters with pathos and humour. The film also features fine vocal contributions from Idris Elba, J K Simmons and Tommy Chong.

Like many recent animated features, much of the film is composed of hyper-kinetic visual gags but thankfully directors Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush know when to pull in the reins and let the surprisingly nuanced story shine through.

The film’s writers, who include Howard and Bush, also aren’t afraid to lace the story with topical issues. The world of Zootopia itself is held up as a model of social tolerance (prejudice against bunny rabbit cops aside) that is being jeopardised by selfish political manipulation. Also, in its portrayal of Judy’s battle for acceptance, the film delivers an effective message about stereotyping, labelling and the importance of female empowerment.

Zootopia also features animation as strikingly realistic and fluid as just about anything we’ve seen in the last few years.

Cute without being irritating, energetic without being manic or headache-inducing, clever and politically savvy without alienating the kids, Zootopia is one of the year’s most refreshing cinematic surprises.

Nick’s rating: ****.

Genre: Animated comedy.

Classification: PG.

Director(s): Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush.

Release date: 17th March 2016.

Running time: 108 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. http://subcultureentertainment.com/2014/02/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-film-show

 

 

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