In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop and a cynical con artist fox must work together to uncover a conspiracy.
‘Zootropolis’ (or ‘Zootopia’ as its known stateside) is an inventive animation set in a world where animals function much like humans, sharing the same hopes and ambitions whilst retaining their own specific characteristics. Our viewpoint into this world is Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), a driven bunny from a rural village who dreams of becoming a cop in Zootropolis, the capital of this world. After a spell as a traffic cop, she ends up investigating a missing animal’s case, relying on the support of a mischievous fox called Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) to help her on her way. From a visual viewpoint, Zootropolis is a feast for the eyes; a multicultural paradise where predators and prey live happily amongst each other in different regions with habitats to match their natural climate. There’s a not so subtle comparison with our world and Zootropolis can be seen as a representation of any major city in the Western world, with the wide and varied collection of people from different races and backgrounds. ‘Zootropolis’ doesn’t labour this point, but there’s enough here to provoke thought amongst any older members in the audience.
‘Zootropolis’ is a Disney production, but there’s a lot about it that suggests it’s influenced more by the higher standard of Pixar’s work. The film will appeal to both children and adults, with children likely to enjoy the colourful characters and the vibrant setting, whilst adults will love the homages to old movies and the strong and timely message delivered through the film’s narrative. The overarching story is clearly influenced by ‘Chinatown’ and its great fun to see that material adapted to a vastly different format. The film is very funny throughout, both in terms of subtler sight gags such as the ‘Lemmings Brothers’ bank and more broad material that gets big laughs out of a sloth’s slow characteristics. The funniest sequence is one of the movie homages, with a crime boss directly ripped from ‘The Godfather’ particularly hilarious.
One of the minor criticisms I have is that beyond the primary characters, the voice work was rather ordinary which is something I haven’t said about an animated film for a long time. It’s not that anyone is bad per se, but more that ‘Zootropolis’ lacks the distinctive voices that can really bring the characters in an animated movie to life. The narrative is strong enough to overcome this, and Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman in particular are terrific in the main roles, so it’s more of an observation than anything else. Over and above the performances, the design and the world building, ‘Zootropolis’ has a really good story at its heart, both in terms of the main narrative inspired by the likes of ‘Chinatown’ and other detective noirs, and in the core relationship between Judy and Nick and the personal growth of Judy throughout. ‘Zootropolis’ is a funny, smart and skilfully crafted piece of animation and it’s well worth seeking out for both adults and children.
Directed By: Byron Howard and Rich Moore
Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Jenny Slate, Tommy Chong, Octavia Spencer, Shakira, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Alan Tudyk, Tom Lister Jr., Raymond S. Persi, Maurice LaMarche, John DiMaggio and Kristen Bell