Film review – Zootropolis (Byron Howard and Rich Moore, 2016)

Zootropolis is the latest in the Disney Animated Studios classics range that certainly holds its own alongside its older brothers and sisters, with a well realised universe and some extremely likeable characters. It may not have the staying power of the greatest films of the studio, but serves as a fun way to entertain children for a couple of hours in the earl summer.

The film stars Ginnifer Goodwin as Judy Hopps, a tiny rabbit that has aspirations to go to Zootropolis to become a police officer. Driven on by a childhood incident, she finally reaches her goal via a fairly snappy montage sequence. Dsappointingly assigned parking duty by her new boss Chief Bogo (Idris Elba, providing a voice that doesn’t really match the character), she sets out to prove she is more than a small fish in a big pond. Striking up an unlikely love-hate friendship with sly fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman in an impressive role), she uncovers a clue to solving one of the city’s biggest mysteries: the location of a missing otter and a growing number of other missing predator mammals in the city.

Goodwin’s portrayal of Judy Hopps is delightful. Her voice is perfect and brings some distinctive characterisation to life. There’s clearly a lot of chemistry between her and the well-cast Bateman. When they fall out midway through the second act, you feel it, and the target audience will too. She has an unmistakable likability in her voice that’s hard to pin down – perfect for this kind of role.

The film excels in its underlying messages of racism and stereotyping, making it a timely release. Each main character’s driving force is as a result of some kind of prejudice they’ve had to fight against. Make no mistake – there is little effort to hide it, to the point of it feeling a little ham-fisted. Anyone who wants their cinematic experiences compartmentalised by separating pure entertainment from thought-provoking commentary may need to double-check the age rating on this film. 

Where it falls down is its lack of foresight in terms of future generation’s appreciation of it. The greatest animated films have been enjoyed for almost a century by parents and children alike. They always have a timeless quality to them, much like fairy-tales, allowing a Snow White or Cinderella to be picked up now and not feel of-its-time. For Zootropolis, one has to wonder how the children of 2040 will feel about the overused phone apps that are featured, or indeed the Breaking Bad and Frozen references that are thrown in for cheap laughs.

For now, however, Disney will sit back and count this as a huge success. It is now the highest-grossing film of 2016 and the 28th of all time (as of 16th May 2016).

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