In ZOOTOPIA animals have become "civilized." Not only are there no longer predators and prey, the animals all wear clothes and have jobs...as one of the trailers points out, they are "anthropomorphic." Think of the characters in Disney's animated ROBIN HOOD (1973) and you've got the idea.
Incidentally, I didn't really care for the teaser trailer where the anthropomorphic animals were explained...it was the hilarious trailer with the sloth working at the DMV that sold me on seeing it!
Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) has wanted to be a police officer her entire life, and she works hard to overcome issues created by her small size, graduating at the top of her class at the academy. She's hired on to the Zootopia police force as part of a diversity initiative by the mayor (J.K. Simmons), but the police chief (Idris Elba) is skeptical and assigns Judy to write parking tickets.
Judy finally gets the chance to work on a case involving a missing animal, one of 14 who have recently disappeared from the city. The chief gives Judy just 48 hours...or else!...to break the case. It's a daunting task, but Judy finds an unexpected ally in Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a fox who is also something of a con artist.
THE ART OF ZOOTOPIA, due out this week, has gone into my Amazon cart!
Much of the humor, such as a very funny extended riff on THE GODFATHER (1972), will sail right over young children's heads, but that's part of what makes the movie good, it's intelligent and there's something for everyone. There are even Disney jokes, such as a character exclaiming "Let it go!" and I loved the character selling bootleg "animal" movies which were inspired by Disney films such as TANGLED (2010).
I also particularly appreciated the bits about pop star Gazelle (Shakira), including the imaginatively designed concert during the end credits.
The movie is simultaneously set in an animal world and very of this current era. Some of the jokes about things like cell phone apps were quite good, but I also wondered if they would "date" the film years from now, if an animated film starring animals can be dated!...or maybe they'll simply provide an interesting look at what life was like in 2016 or thereabouts.
Los Angeles Times said the film had a "subtle examination of bias." Subtle? They laid it on with a trowel! I get it, I get it, everyone should have equal opportunities and bullying is bad. The movie started to feel that it was a little too focused on an overt message agenda rather than entertainment.
The movie also left me with questions which may be forever unanswered...for instance, Mr. and Mrs. Hopps (Bonnie Hunt and Don Lake) were such caring and involved parents, did they also provide that kind of parenting for Judy's 275 or so siblings? And if so, how?
Additional voices are provided by Tommy Chong, Kristen Bell, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk, Jenny Slate, and Nate Torrence.
ZOOTOPIA was directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore. The good musical score was by Michael Giacchino (THE INCREDIBLES). It runs 108 well-paced minutes.
Parental Advisory: ZOOTOPIA is rated PG for "some thematic elements, rude humor and action." That seems about right as there are a few scary moments which could trouble little ones. (A postscript, I'll never understand the desire to put bathroom humor in these kinds of movies, although it was less offensive here than even in FROZEN.)
All in all, ZOOTOPIA is an enjoyable film which entertains and is worth seeing.
For more on ZOOTOPIA, please visit reviews by Gary Goldstein of the L.A. Times and Leonard Maltin.