Kyle J. Steenblik

Zootopia a Highly Entertaining, and Suprisingly Complex Family Film

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MV5BOTMyMjEyNzIzMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzIyNjU0NzE@._V1__SX399_SY500_Zootopia
Directed by: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush
Screenplay by: Jared Bush, Phil Johnston
Story by: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush
Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Shakira
Running time 108 minutes
Rated PG for some thematic elements, rude humor and action

4 1/2 stars out of 5Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) is an idealistic rabbit from Bunnyburrow who dreams of making the world a better place by becoming a police officer.  Thanks to Zootopia’s Mayor Leodore Lionheart’s (J.K. Simmons) small mammal inclusion initiative Judy’s dreams are about to come true. However, when she is assigned to the ZPD’s 1st Precinct Police Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) restricts her to parking duty. Although she works zealously to prove herself, she gets hustled by fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), leaving her humiliated and discouraged. The next day, Judy impulsively enters into pursuit of a thief, Duke Wealseton (Alan Tudyk), and successfully captures the criminal. However, Captain Bogo reprimands her for overstepping her authority and public endangerment during the chase.  But when a distraught Mrs. Otterton (Octavia Spencer) pleads for help finding her husband, one of many recent disappearances in the city, Judy promises to find her husband.  Chief Bogo would have fired her on the spot except for the timely support of Deputy Mayor Dawn Bellweather (Jenny Slate); instead, Judy is given 48 hours to solve the case.

In what first appears to be a cute children’s movie populated with funny anthropomorphic animals I found Zootopia to be a complex and nuanced film.  With themes touching on racism, stereotyping, inequality, bullying, and political unrest and corruption, it is a surprisingly sophisticated film.  Even the humor in the film is advanced enough to be engaging for adults, while there are still plenty of moments for children; there are more than a few references that will leave the children wondering why their parents are laughing.  Above all Zootopia does not talk down to anyone, or bludgeon the audience with an unsubtle morality tale; it can serve as a fantastic conversations starter, and reference point, between children and parents about some very complicated issues.

While Zootopia scores very high on the social consciousness scale, it also scores highly on the pure entertainment value scale.  These scales are completely arbitrary, and those values are set by me, so those weights and measure may have little value outside this review.  On this arbitrary scale, I would score the entertainment value highly not only because it made me laugh, but also because it made my kids laugh, but not all at the same time.  This film was getting some very genuinely big laughs from all segments of the audience in our theatre.  It is the blending of this humor with the serious subject matter that makes this such an effective and worthwhile film.

If I had to pick on Zootopia, I would say that not all the jokes, or moments land on their feet.  There are a few jokes that are more childish than the film deserves, and a few elements that felt a touch out of place, but were added for entertainment value.  Even that critique feels like I am taking this film more seriously than it takes itself, and maybe that is true.  I feel like this is a much more serious film than it appears to be, but it has been cleverly disguised as a children’s film, clearly as a plot to teach children subversive positive social values, in which case I have nothing bad to say about Zootopia.

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