Zootopia SPOILER-FREE Review

I went into Zootopia with modest expectations. I had heard fantastic things about the film (it currently sits at a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes), but I don't like a lot of kids films. Pixar, however, has cracked the code to making films that are very adult in story and themes, but are still accessible to children. I absolutely loved last year's Inside Out. But the other animation studios haven't had quite the same track record. But knowing people were loving this film, made by Disney animation, I went in with an open mind. And I do have to say, I was surprised with how much I liked this film. Zootopia isn't a perfect movie, but it is funny and exhilarating, and has a very relevant and important social message.

Zootopia focuses on a bunny named Judy Hops (Ginnifer Goodwin), who dreams of being a police officer in the animal metropolis of Zootopia. However, no bunny has ever been a cop, and even her parents tell her all she can truly be is a carrot farmer. But Hops persists and against all odds becomes a cop. But as she moves to Zootopia, the supposed magical city where all species of animal, predator and prey alike, get along, she soon learns that there is still tension and struggles between species that is not unlike our world today.

Before I get into the social message of the film, which was my main reason for liking it, let's talk about the other elements that worked. Similar to Inside Out, it was very creative in how it set up and developed its world. You get a look at the different sectors of Zootopia (Tundra section, Savannah section, etc.) and how the different species of animals worked and interacted in this world. The parallels drawn are not overdone nor overstated, but are subtle enough to be understood by mature audiences. The bunnies live in isolated ranches and talk about the foxes. Judy says to her parents "Not all foxes are bad." to which they "agree", but persist in their belief that all foxes are savages. We see a world where all species of animals have come together, but there are shops for the giraffes, and shops for the rats. We meet out other lead, a sly fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), when he is refused service in an elephant ice cream shop.

The voice talent in this film is phenomenal. I already mentioned Goodwin and Bateman, who were fantastic in their leading roles. But Idris Elba was also great as the police chief, along with J.K. Simmons as the mayor. It didn't feel like the directors were cramming big name actors in there just to be able to put their names on the poster, but rather these actors serviced the characters. For an animated film, that is all you can really ask for.

But the best part of this film by far is its social message on racism and discrimination. The plot of the film centers around certain mammals, all predators, turning up savage, causing for a panic from the prey. It is said that prey make up 90% of the population, and see discrimination against the predator play out in a sadly real montage. One point was really striking for me, when there was someone protesting with a sign yelling "You don't belong here! Go back to the jungle!" to which the predator responded "I was born here! Where do you want me to go to, the Savannah?" In many ways, this is a really depressing message. We have ideas and stereotypes of who everyone is supposed to be, and as Nick says later in the film "I realized that if all anyone was ever going to see me as was a sly fox, then what was the point of trying to be anything else?" This is such an important message for children to learn about at a young age, as well as for adults taking their kids to see this movie. And it never feels preachy. It never feels like the movie is trying to hit you over the head with this message. Rather, it feels like a natural repercussion of the world established as a mirror of our own, which is even sadder in actuality.

I did have some problems with the film, but they're minor. It continuously cut back to a singer named Gazelle (played by Shakira) who I did not find interesting at all. She had one good moment during the montage, but that's about it. I was annoyed by her song, and I felt it a waste of time. The movie does stall a bit after the second act, and I think it could have been tightened a little bit. While I enjoyed the story of the film, I didn't find the mystery of the missing mammals all too interesting, and the ending of this mission was a little to cartoonish and cheesy for me. But again, these are minor complaints.

Overall, Zootopia is a hilarious and enjoyable kids film that has a very important social message on racism and discrimination. It is very creative in how it sets up its world, and utilizes its voice cast to its fullest potential. The story itself is strong, but the ultimate mission of the two leads gets lost a little bit and isn't overly interesting. The movie loses its momentum after the second act, but shortly picks back up for a strong finish. The character of Gazelle could have been dramatically reduced, as it didn't add much to the film and only really wasted time. But the message of the film and its reflection of our own world makes this a compelling and engaging animated movie that is important for kids and adults alike to see and understand.


What do you think? Have you seen Zootopia? Did you like it? Leave your (spoiler-free) thoughts in the comments section below.

Written by: Nate 
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