Zootopia

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It’s crazy to start a review of an animated movie and say that it’s the best film of the year. Sure, the year is only a few months old, but still. This is a movie that the entire family will enjoy. Don’t let the fact that it’s PG scare you. There’s a few slightly violent scenes, and a fun Breaking Bad parody (it’s not drugs they’re cooking up, but poisonous flowers). You can’t give a film a G rating with stuff like that, but trust me…you don’t have to worry about the young ones watching this. And there are lots of jokes that only the adults will get.

The movie also covers such heavy topics as police brutality, bullying, and prejudice. There certainly won’t be complaints from the Black Lives Matter crowd with topics like that (or Octavia Spencer and Idris Elba providing a few of the voices).

The screenplay is very clever and doesn’t just  go down the cliche rabbit hole as a lot of animated films do. The only thing Disney didn’t capitalize on with this, was a catchy song that the kids will be singing for months. Shakira is the pop-star gazelle, and you’ll have to deal with her slightly annoying singing of an unmemorable tune.

The film starts with a cute play, in which a young female bunny is in a school play talking about how animals used to attack each other. They live in a utopia, well…zootopia…where animals all live in peace. Yet there have been a few recent disappearances, and a few vicious animal attacks. The cute bunny (Ginnifer Goodwin) has grown up and wants to join the police force. She’s smaller than the usual suspects (no pun intended), but she makes it through the academy. She’s relegated to parking enforcement, but yearns for bigger things. One day, a sly fox (Jason Bateman) is being discriminated against at an elephant ice cream parlor. She goes in and buys the fox an ice cream for his son, only to find they’re running an elaborate scam. This leads to them partnering up to solve the missing persons…errr, missing animals, cases. In that regard, it becomes a buddy/cop flick. And a dang good one. The story gets a little on the noir side, which will remind film buffs of the classic Chinatown.

Credit should go to director Rich Moore, who gave us the brilliant Wreck-It Ralph a few years ago, and Tangled co-director Byron Howard. The screenplay was written by Phil Johnston and Jared Bush.

The movie is a blast visually (especially in 3D). There are all the various things designed for the many different shapes and sizes of the animals.

There’s solid voice work from Jenny Slate, J.K. Simmons, Bonnie Hunt, Tommy Chong, and Alan Tudyk.

It’s a movie with a message, but much more important than that — it’s a movie that is highly entertaining. It’s strange, I brought a teenager with me, and I liked the movie a lot more than he did. I asked him to give me a paragraph on it, and he gave me this great mini synopsis:

“The classic tale of unlikely friends, a plot full of predictable turns, a humorous but ultimately forgettable set of jokes–Zootopia is the quintessential example of how a whole can be worth more than the sum of its parts.

“The take-home message, be yourself, is nothing new. Talking animals? Been there. In a big city?  Done that. It’s the interactions the characters have with each other–the sparks that fly, the fuses that burn–that serve to enhance the all too familiar set of clichés into something that both charms and endears.

“While a large majority of the jokes are geared towards eliciting laughter from all ages, there are a number that rival the adult wit found in Pixar’s animations. With highs come lows, however, and one joke in particular wears out its welcome rather quickly with its sloth-like nature.

“Zootopia is a movie that succeeds not in creating memorable moments, but in building a firm foundation for a possible franchise in the future. That isn’t to say I didn’t like the film–I very much look forward to what Disney does next.”

Well, I do agree with him about the sloths working at the DMV. That joke got old quick (or perhaps having dealt with the DMV so often over the years, just hits too close to home). I’m just surprised I liked it so much more than he did, but since he just turned 18, perhaps he’s in that stage where he is over talking animals. I thought I was over that stage, until I saw this!

I’m giving it 4 stars out of 5.