Film Review: 'Zootopia'

Kids will love the furry animals and funny jokes of Zootopia, while adults can chew on pop culture references, intriguing characters, and a relevant message. (Walt Disney Studios)

Kids will love the furry animals and funny jokes of Zootopia, while adults can chew on pop culture references, intriguing characters, and a relevant message. (Walt Disney Studios)

★★★ 1/2

A record-breaking March weekend started with a guffaw-inducing trailer that made Zootopia the talk of the moviegoing town. With the two main characters strolling into a DMV manned by sloths, it was impossible not to laugh at the slow gags and delayed punchlines; a promise of even better humor and cleverness that Zootopia absolutely fulfills. Turns out that this movie is one of the greater standalone offerings by Disney, being a colorful adventure for children while giving adults plenty to chew on with pop-culture references and a smart, touching story that even resonates with modern social issues.

Zootopia is set in a fictional city where all animals - including predator and prey alike - have moved past their food chain roles to peacefully coexist in a beautifully detailed, deep world. There's a tunda district, rainforest district, and everything in between for every species under the sun. This cinematic world is a masterpiece of computer animation

In this city of hopes and dreams arrives Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), a tiny bunny who's escaped her carrot-farming hometown to become the first-ever rabbit cop at the Zootopia Police Department - much to the surprise of her friends, peers,  and especially her unambitious, settling parents (Bonnie Hunt and Don Lake). In her first shift distributing parking tickets, she saves the hustling fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) from discrimination - only to find that Nick is a moneymaking, tax-evading hustler. With a keen attention to detail and passion for the law, Judy nabs Nick for his crimes, and enlists his help in cracking a missing person case - that is, a missing otter case. The bunny has the morale, and the fox has the wit - and their chemistry together is magnetic to experience as they tackle a case that can affect the path of the career Judy so passionately fought for.

(Walt Disney Studios)

(Walt Disney Studios)

It's the perfect setup for a whodunnit detective movie rife with film noir inspirations, lampoons of genre tropes, and an almost exorbitant but fully welcome amount of Godfather  references; there's something especially hilarious about an opossum in a tiny tuxedo making Judy an offer she can't refuse. Zootopia is a movie that fully acknowledges and pays tribute to its inspirations and roots, only taking the best from the genre to tell what is an incredibly enjoyable story.

These are normally side offerings used to dress up an often poor screenplay with weak characters and a hardly compelling story, but with Zootopia's story being so damn good - the movie as a whole, as a matter of fact - all of these inspirations and references enhance the Zootopia universe. This is a clever, imaginative, and fun movie that appeals to every age in just about every audience.

(Walt Disney Studios)

(Walt Disney Studios)

Interestingly enough, Zootopia's massive strengths don't even end there, as the film particularly resonates with modern life lessons and even some pointed social issues. Prejudice, the public image of police, and the feverish pursuit of one's goals are all subject matters addressed directly or indirectly by Zootopia and its colorful cast. Disney is no stranger to implementing an inspiring moral in the follow-your-dreams realm, but it's Zootopia that updates that sentiment - if you put in the work, you can succeed - and does it better than any film, animated or live-action, has in quite some time. While the subtleties of the lesson might be lost on younger children, there's quite a lot to take in for what appears to be a lighthearted movie, and Zootopia doesn't alienate audiences; it unifies them.

Zootopia is a crowd-pleaser of a movie that sports a wonderful, well-written tale, memorable characters, and top-of-the-line animation and ingenuity. It is essentially a complete movie, a full course meal of film that manages to nourish the soul as well as satisfy the appetite for entertainment. Normally the feature length film won't always keep all the promises made in its trailer, but in the case of Zootopia, it has paid off in dividends, and that will make this movie an instant classic, a staple for children and adults for years to come.

Rated PG.

Written by Jared Bush and Phil Johnston.

Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush.

Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, and Idris Elba.

© 2015 Rex J. Lindeman.   All rights reserved.   |   (760) 274-5948   |   rexlindeman@gmail.com

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