Zootopia, rated PG
In this delightful animated Disney film, there are no human characters. Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin of the television series Once Upon a Time) is a small town rabbit with big ambitions. She lives with her carrot farmer parents (voiced by Don Lake and Bonnie Hunt), and 225 siblings (remember rabbits are “good at multiplication”), but has always wanted to join the police force in nearby Zootopia. The problem is there has never been a rabbit on the police force. And her parents are terrified for her, much preferring that she stay and work on the safe carrot farm.
The world that directors Byron Howard (Tangled) and Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph), along with co-director Jared Bush, who shares screenplay credit with Phil Johnston, create is one of predators and prey. For example, rabbits fear foxes, and Judy had a terrifying experience with a fox when she was young. Predators make up just 10 percent of the population of Zootopia, but they hold most of the positions of power and influence, and dominate due to their size and strength. Mayor Lionheart (voiced by J.K. Simmons) is a lion who struts about, while his assistant, Bellwether (voiced by Jenny Slate) is a powerless little sheep, a glorified administrative assistant.
Against all odds and despite her size, Judy graduates at the top of her class at the police academy and is ready to make a difference. But much to Judy’s disappointment, the water buffalo Police Chief Bogo (voiced by Idris Elba), who doesn’t want her on his team, assigns her to meter maid duty. Still, Judy determines to over-achieve in that job and move up to the real police work she’s always dreamed of doing.
The major case in Zootopia involves 14 mammals that have mysteriously gone missing. All of the real police officers have been assigned to the case, while Judy continues to issue parking tickets. In the course of her work, Judy encounters Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman). Nick is a sly fox, a career con man who has made a living via a variety of scams. Judy believes that Nick could be a key witness in the case. Using her relationship with Bellwether, Judy convinces Chief Bogo to give her (and Nick) 48 hours to crack the case, or she will resign. That story is creative and funny – with a parody of The Godfather (Maurice LaMarche voicing a tiny rat, Mr. Big), Mystic Spring Oasis nudist colony (the animals don’t have any clothes on), sloths working in the DMV, etc.
Both children and adults will love this creative film – the city of Zootopia, where predators and prey live together in harmony, is visually appealing, the film is well-written with plenty of jokes as the film addresses the serious issue of prejudice and stereotypes, or what I might call in this film species-ism – predators vs. prey, rabbits vs. foxes, etc.
In addition to the characters already mentioned, Octavia Spencer voices Mrs. Otterton, who is worried about her missing husband, Tommy Chong voices Yax, the laid-back head of the Mystic Springs Oasis, Alan Tudyk voices the sneaky Duke Weaselton and Shakira as Gazelle, a Lady Gaga-like music artist.
We saw the film in 3-D, and did not feel that the 3-D added anything except dollars to the cost of our tickets. Some scenes could also be scary for very young viewers.
Although the Academy Awards ceremony was just a week ago, I don’t think it’s too early to start thinking about next year’s awards. I’m confident that this excellent film will receive nominations. The film opened at number one, with $73.7 million, the fourth largest March opening. In comparison, Disney’s Frozen opened with $67.4 in 2013.