There are a bunch of children out there who only know Disney through Frozen – how depressing is that? The studio, when it isn’t churning out a garbage flick serving only as a music video for an over-rated awards bait tune, is able to make pictures that are clever as well as fun, substantial as well as charming. Step forward Zootropolis.
Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a rabbit who dreams of one day becoming the first police officer of her species. Through hard work and perseverance, she achieves her dream and finds herself assigned to the metropolis that is Zootropolis, a city where various animals live and thrive. However, she finds that it can be tricky to enforce the law and, in order to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to solve and mysterious case involving missing mammals. However, finding the answer means working with Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a wily fox and small-time hustler who delights in making her job even harder. As this is a Disney film, needless to say that they learn the value of working together and see past their differences.
This latest adventure from Disney is a true treat, and it’s everything you’ve come to expect from the House of Mouse – it’s clever, beautiful to look at and incredibly fun. It harks back to a golden age of Disney, one that treats its audience with respect and presents an engaging tale that is as rich as it is enjoyable (although often, the two go hand-in-hand). It takes comedy set-pieces, gripping chases, criminal conspiracy and more from their respective genres and mixes them adroitly, fashioning something splendid.
The two leads are utterly charming together – Goodwin brings a kind of naïve idealism that makes her incredibly likeable. Her sweetness and heart are coupled with her no-nonsense attitude and sense of duty to create the sort of Disney heroine kids deserve. Being a touch older and somewhat more cynical, I was endeared with Bateman’s Nick – a sly wise-cracker whose dry and sarcastic voiceover brought a feeling of street-ness that really helped up the feel of the buddy cop movie. Together, they make a perfect pair.
Something that I always think about watching Disney films is the music – here, we’re in the hands of accomplished composer Michael Giacchino, responsible for the brilliant scores of films such as The Incredibles and Up, which makes it more of a shame that the music is a bit non-descript. Don’t get me wrong, it works very well in the film, doing all it needs to do (considering all the different terrains and scenarios in the film, it is (rather aptly) a bit of a chameleon score) but nothing really stands out. I left Inside Out humming the main theme – that’s not the case here. The other piece of music, the film’s song, is called ‘Try Everything,’ sung in-world by pop star Gazelle (Shakira) – it’s funky and fun, the definite highlight of the film’s soundtrack.
Often, the mark of a Disney film is that there is something there for both the adults and the children, and Zootropolis does not disappoint on that front. The kids get to enjoy a wonderfully vibrant tale that is non-stop, full of humour and entertaining animals (it must be said, no matter what age you are, the sloth DMV is one of the highlights of the film). For the parents, it is a somewhat gritty tale of corruption and organised crime (with a particularly good link to The Godfather) that is far more complex than it first appears, analysing the themes of prejudice and race relations with surprising insightfulness and cultural relevancy. Behind this tale of cute critters are a number of important lessons, ones that emphasise the value of hard work, of believing in yourself and not judging a book by its cover.
Zootropolis is one of the best animated films in a long time, and an example of Disney at its best, crafting a tale that deals with adult themes and treats the audience with respect, but manages to be fun and charming at the same time.
Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush
Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin (Judy Hopps), Jason Bateman (Nick Wilde), Idris Elba (Chief Bogo), Jenny Slate (Bellwether), Nate Torrence (Clawhauser), Bonnie Hunt (Bonnie Hopps)
Running Time: 108 Mins