Film Review: Zootopia

by Chad Liffmann on March 4, 2016

So good it might as well feature humans, but then it wouldn’t be as good.

The DMV scene that has everybody laughing hysterically!

The DMV scene that has everybody laughing hysterically!

Zootopia has all the makings of a classic Pixar film. Everything except the emotional heft. But seriously, it has absolutely everything else going for it — it’s inventive, beautifully animated, smart, funny, and well-rounded. Just because it doesn’t make you cry shouldn’t be any reason to think less of this Disney entry, though it’ll inevitably be compared to recent Pixar films (I’ve already been asked if it’s as good as Inside Out, which it isn’t, but it’s more re-watchable). Two of Zootopia‘s directors are Byron Howard (Bolt, Tangled) and Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph), so you know that the sense of humor will be quick-witted and charming, and the characters quirky and varied. But more significantly than that, Zootopia sustains a maximum sense of fun while simultaneously tackling social issues with more finesse than most films.

I’ll limit what I say about the plot because one of the wonderful things about Zootopia was how much it had that I didn’t expect. That isn’t to say it contains a super surprise of a story. Rather, I think that Zootopia played its marketing strategy wisely, keeping things surface-level and allowing the story to develop and take turns without the audience expecting them. What I will say is that the story focuses around the relationship between a precocious-turned-eager bunny cop (Ginnifer Goodwin) and a con artist fox (Jason Bateman). Zootopia is the name of the large city in which most of the story takes place. The world is just like the human world, featuring jobs of all sorts, restaurants, cars, houses, laws, socioeconomics, and of course, a DMV. Oh, wow, that DMV scene will never not be funny.

The most impressive aspect of Zootopia is the way it treats real world issues such as diversity and inclusion, and even sexism. The messages aren’t delivered obnoxiously. In fact, there’s a natural balance to the way in which the script points out very specific characteristics of unconscious bias as well as more universal (child-accessible) themes of inclusion and being “whatever you want to be.” And at the core of it all, an ever-so-slightly tweaked underdog story. Yet the fact that Zootopia addresses these serious issues head on doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the film. It’s well-meaning without being preachy, deliberate in its message while still being loose and silly.

I was disappointed to see the end credits roll because I was having so much fun. I want to see more of Zootopia! I want to hear more about how the society functions, see what other animals exist in the city and the roles they play, and spend some more time with our heroes. There’s no doubt that the inevitable box office success of Zootopia will spawn a few sequels, at the very least.

Plus, there’s an otter in it!! Two otters!!

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Zootopia comes out in theaters March 4th.

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