Zootropolis review – Disney’s fun and adventurous take on the buddy cop genre

by | 25 Mar 2016 | Film Reviews

‘A rabbit police officer and a wily fox team up to try and uncover a conspiracy.’

The key to a good children’s film is always trying to strike up that balance of attracting both the young ones and the adults. Being able to layer the jokes and gags so kids and parents alike will be laughing has become almost an art in itself and films like Shrek (2001) and Tangled (2010), for example, were especially adept in this, adding adult themes and jokes for us grownups as well as engaging its young target audience.

Fortunately, Zootropolis (AKA Zootopia – original USA title) also achieves this with aplomb, with its mystery solving plot that is intriguing enough to connect with the older viewers. And its well-executed action set pieces and sight gags to keep the little ones glued to the screen (which the adults will also enjoy anyway).

Going back to their anthropomorphic roots. Dismissed and disregarded by her fellow officers she is forced to team with a sly con artist, a fox by the name of Nick Wilde, to solve a conspiracy involving missing predators. It’s a classic buddy cop film which follows the traditional troupes that come with the genre, a miss-matched pairing that starts off hostile, then gradually turning to begrudging respect before falling in to all out friendship (and let’s not forget the third act falling out before coming together for the grand finale). The plot may be conventional and hit the obvious beats but that doesn’t means there isn’t a lot to enjoy.

Disney’s latest is set in a world inhabited entirely by animals who live in harmony with one another, prey and predator alike. The plot follows rabbit, Judy Hopps, as the first of her kind to join the police force in the city of Zootropolis. 

For a children’s film, Zootropolis explores deeper themes. It deals with issues of prejudice and ignorance, using the whole prey and predator distinction as an allegory to racism. It also promotes a strong message of inclusion and that no one should be defined by their upbringing or background and be told what they can or can’t do, which is obviously a great message for kids. Writers Jared Bush and Phil Johnston even subvert the traditional view within the Disney animal kingdom and have the prey presented as the ignorant bullies and the predators as the victims.

Despite all the subtext, which never feels too heavy. Zootropolis is still an incredibly fun film with plenty of humour and entertainment to be found. Particularly when it comes to some of the visual jokes involving certain species (sloths working at the Department of Mammal Vehicles must be up there for funniest scene ever). While slow to begin with. There is plenty of action to go around as well with a few standout set pieces including a chase scene in a miniaturised part of the city for the rodent citizens. Other zones of Zootropolis like an Amazonian rainforest and an icy-tundra are all beautifully animated which really adds to the action. You can really tell a lot of effort and detail has gone into creating this bustling city and making it feel as real as possible.

The voice cast is spot on as well, all helping to bring the citizens of Zootropolis to life and adding real depth to the main characters. Ginnifer Goodwin does a great job of bringing out an infectious joy and excitement from Judy but also shows a real vulnerability and naivety in her performance that comes with moving from a small town to a big city and all the other uncertainties from such a transition. Jason Bateman is also well suited for Nick Wilde, the con artist fox who’s been around long enough to form a no-one-will-ever-change so why bother attitude. He particularly convinces in his transformation from sarcastic narcissist to all-round decent guy. Supporting voices also do good work with their characters including Idris Elba channelling John Luther for his Chief Bogo, perfectly cast as a gruff Cape Buffalo.

‘Disney have certainly got another hit on their hands with Zootropolis, and deservedly so.’

It’s a fun flick with some hidden depth which will keep the more mature amongst us interested when we take the kids. The story might be just over the edge of complex for some of the little ones and there are a few moments they might find a bit scary, but other than that I imagine they’ll be too busy laughing at Flash the Sloth as he “quickly” runs a license plate, or tapping their feet to the catchy theme song by Shakira, who voices a Gazelle pop star, also named Gazelle.

Film Details

PG · 1h 48m · 2016.

Genre

Action · Adventure · Animation · Comedy · Crime · Family · Mystery.

Cast

Ginnifer Goodwin · Idris Elba · J. K. Simmons · Jared Bush · Jason Bateman.

Directors

Byron Howard · Rich Moore.

Co-Director

Jared Marsh.

Writers

Byron Howard (story) · Jared Bush (screenplay and story) · Jim Reardon (story) · Jennifer Lee (story) · Josie Trinidad (story) · Phil Johnston (screenplay and story) · Rich More (story).

Additional Material by

Dan Fogelman.

Editing

Jeremy Milton.

Music

Michael Giacchino.

Contains

mild threat.

David Axcell

Film Critic

David has quite a broad taste in film which includes big budget blockbusters and small indie films; including International and Arthouse cinema. As long as it’s good in that particular genre, he’ll watch anything.

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