Well, hello again, Disney. Yes, please come in to the home I call my life. I need a quality story to entertain me. Alright, I’ll get off my knees before I consummate my love for anything Disney, as it’s not quite the case with me with this movie. When that first teaser came out, I was a tad underwhelmed. But the argument for teasers is that they’re not supposed to be mind-blowing and get you hyped for the movie. It’s a means of putting the movie on your radar, so when the trailer gets released, you can be all like, “oh hey, I remember that.” While I wouldn’t say I thought it’d be a flop, the trailers barely did anything for me either. That sloth trailer is funny the first time, maybe the second time, but if you’d have seen the trailer as many times as I had, it got old pretty fast. That third trailer though was a welcomed change of pace. So yeah, this was the movie this week that I was looking forward to the most. So lets not waste any more time, this is my honest review of ZOOTOPIA.
The story follows Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin), whom as a child has dreamed of being the first bunny police officer of Zootopia, an enormous metropolitan city where animals, prey and predator, live together in peace. Having grown up and moving away from her comfortable farm-life upbringing, she does indeed become the first bunny police officer. But she isn’t met with the most open of arms and is instead given the easy jobs, instead of partaking in the investigation of missing animals. Judy tries to make the best of her situation, and even meets a con-artist fox named Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman), whom she tries to arrest but constantly gives slippery reasons why he can’t be. However, Judy’s job starts to wear her thin and starts to think that being a cop isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. However, a golden opportunity comes when a thief is brought to justice, but because she isn’t a real cop in the eyes of her superior officer Chief Bogo (voiced by Idris Elba), he tries to have her fired. But a desperate otter looking for her husband, one of the missing animals, Judy is reluctantly tasked with finding the otter in a given amount of time, or she will be forced to resign.
Chalk up another hit for Disney because this knocked it out of the park.
A tad disclaimer though, it’s really not so much a comedy. I mean, obviously there’s humor in it, but it leans a little more to the dramatic side than the trailer may lead on. As in, it can get brutally dark in this movie. In the beginning, it deals with bullying. As a child, Judy announces that she wants to be a cop and a mean fox kid pushes her down to the ground, holds her there, belittles and threatens her, and then slashes her face with his claws, leaving a pretty decent gash. Granted, there’s no blood, but that doesn’t make it any less awful.
That was just the kid stuff. Right before she’s about to take the case to find the missing husband, Chief Bogo is also brutally mean to her. I couldn’t necessarily quote anything, unfortunately, or even paraphrase at all, but I just remember the offenses, the seething and relentless cruelty and unfairness. I mean, jeez, it’s pretty heavy handed. That’s in no way a draw from the film, as that is clearly how the world is established. There will always be a little bit of tension between prey and predator, but this world makes it work for better or worse.
And this is especially dramatic when Judy and Nick have to interact off of each other. The tension between the two characters is always building, and with careful writing, neither character is overly cruel, but they’re not squeaky clean either. Nick will constantly call her a dumb bunny or other offensive nicknames, and Judy will manipulate Nick into making himself more of a criminal than he really is just so she can have probable cause to search an area she’d be otherwise not allowed in.
This all comes to a head in the middle where the missing animals are found and Judy is given the credit on TV. However, after some heart-to-heart talks and learning about each other, bonding, Judy unwittingly says things that offends Nick as a predator, making him seem like it’s in his nature to eventually go savage and hurt someone. This is obviously not Judy’s intention, but given the world that we were introduced to, you understand his anger toward her. What a harsh reality check for kids to learn. Of course the two characters become friends again, but I’m starting to think that maybe in order for the lesson to sink in a little bit more effectively that maybe Judy and Nick could still work together, but Nick would still have hurt feelings and they wouldn’t be friends in the end. But it’s not like Judy isn’t hard on herself, giving one of movie’s most stand-out moments where she cries, calls herself a dumb bunny, and after being forgiven, hugs Nick by resting her head on his chest. I won’t lie, I wanted to cry there.
This is one of the greatest elements of the movie, it makes an argument for both sides. Even the good guys can be a little mean-spirited and criminals have a story that anyone could identify with. So while there’s a conflict of method and ideology, there is common ground for the capacity for good and bad, but we never stop hoping that Judy and Nick will be friends and that they will triumph at the end. Everyone has something to learn and adapt to.
The voice casting is perfect. I mean, Nick voiced by Bateman? Who else could have done that? Um, the correct answer is NO ONE. He so perfectly embodies the snarky jerk with a history and, as usual, can easily dive into drama when the scene calls for it. Once again, offering one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the movie. Goodwin does a wonderful job as Judy and is clearly giving her all to the role. Every scene she’s in puts a smile on my face. I suppose the easiest joke I can make is, for those of you that are fans of the TV show ONCE UPON A TIME, and are aware that the show brings together all of the classic Disney characters and has recently featured characters from recent Disney and Pixar films like BRAVE’s Merida and FROZEN’s Ana and Elsa, would they go so far as to bring in Judy and Nick? And would Judy still be voiced by Goodwin? Would the show make that humorous connection?
While I might not say this is a negative toward the movie, I do think it’s a bit of a bummer that we don’t get to see enough of Zootopia itself. I mean, we get plenty of the big city shots, but what about the separate districts? Yeah, the rainforest is pretty much the only one we really get to see much of. We don’t get to see Tundra or… whatever the other ones were. See how much of a bummer it is? I would remember their names better if the characters ventured into them. But I guess that’s what sequels are for. Totally down for that, by the way.
However, if I had to nitpick anything at all, it would be that the ending where Nick becomes a cop too. Somehow, I think it would be such a more realistic ending if Nick became just a kind of ear out for Judy if she needed information regarding criminal activity, seeing as he has his connections to what amounts to the mob in this world. Him becoming a cop just feels a tad too hokey. But whatever, I guess if someone needed a change in occupation from “reformed thief” a police officer wouldn’t be the worst path to choose. It just feels like a little too happy-ending to me.
Also, the GODFATHER references just feel so… obvious. Every comedy that has an element of gang related events for some reason has to reference this dang movie without missing a beat and I’m getting so annoyed with it. If you have to reference GODFATHER, make the references a little more subtle. But these really are just nitpicks and it’s hard to REALLY dock points for it, but… kind of irksome.
Whatever review I read that said this was the best animated family film about racism wasn’t kidding. It doesn’t shy away from hitting you hard with difficult lessons, but it always gives you hope that there is a way to find compromise and mutual respect and that’s a powerful thing to teach kids. I’ve seen this movie twice now, and I would love to see it again. Yeah, it’s THAT good.
My honest rating: 5/5