Review: Zootopia

Score: B+

Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore

Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, JK Simmons

Running Time: 108 Minutes

Rated: PG


Bright, hilarious and surprisingly timely, Zootopia is an early frontrunner for next year’s Oscar for Best Animated Feature.


Ginnifer Goodwin is perfectly cast as Judy, a chipper bunny who dreams of being a police officer. Disrespected when she’s not being treated as a token presence, she gets a chance to prove herself when a missing persons (or animals) case stumps the rest of the force.


She teams up with Nick (Jason Bateman, also perfectly cast), a fox. Of course, foxes and bunnies are enemies since foxes tend to eat bunnies. So in addition to the “odd couple” aspect, the movie has a lot to say about overcoming prejudices to work together.


But it doesn’t stop there. Zootopia tackles not just personal prejudice, but institutional prejudice. The police force is content to discredit witnesses because of their species and underestimate “weaker” animals on the force.


If you’re seeing parallels to our human world, that’s intentional. Occasionally, the message about treating everyone with respect gets hit a few too many times in a very obvious way. Plus, it also doesn’t go all the way: Some animals are used to defy stereotypes, but others are used to reinforce them.


But whether or not it’s completely successful in that regard, it’s actually a solid cop movie, complete with exciting chase scenes, witty banter and double-crosses. It’s a got a solid framework and a great cast. It just feels like it’s a rewrite away from being something truly special.


It even makes some funny pop culture references, even if it’s confusing to have a character listen to R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” on the radio, but have Shakira as a gazelle named Gazelle being the most popular singer in the world. And personally, I could have done without yet another homage to The Godfather, but I’m totally down with a kids movie referencing Shutter Island.


There’s a lot to love in Zootopia, which builds a fully realized world, lands almost all its jokes and teaches valuable lessons. It’s not perfect, but it does an extremely commendable job.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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