Stop me if you’ve heard this one – a fox and a bunny, traditionally natural enemies in the wild, get together to solve a crime where animals have been abducted mysteriously.
Yes, Zootopia is essentially a buddy-cop movie set in a world where there are no humans; instead, animals have taken on human traits. In this world, Judy (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a rabbit whose family are carrot farmers, and have been since forever, because, well, they’re rabbits, and growing carrots is SAFE. But Judy has much bigger aspirations: she’s going to be a police officer in the biggest city there is – Zootopia.
However, a cop’s job isn’t something a bunny can just hop into, and despite graduating top of her class, she is assigned to issuing parking tickets instead of solving crimes. While on the job, she runs into slick conman, er, confox Nick (Jason Bateman), who has a good gig going buying jumbo popsicles from elephant shops, melting them down, and making smaller popsicles he can sell for a profit.
Later, their paths cross again when Judy is assigned a solve-it-or-quit case to find a missing otter. When one of the clues leads her to Nick once more, she outfoxes him and pretty much blackmails him into helping her solve the case.
From then on, it’s a wild goose chase of animal capers as our furry fellows are herded into a tangled web of lies, intrigue and savagery that includes them getting into a beast (in every sense of the word) of a chase scene, burrowing out of tight spots, and almost taking a swim with the fishes.
Animated features with anthropomorphic animal characters can be hit-or-miss affairs. For every A Bug’s Life or Ice Age out there, you also get a Shark Tale or an Over The Hedge to balance things out.
Thankfully, Zootopia manages to include all the prerequisite animals-doing-human-things jokes and the beastly puns quite adequately (read: without making you cringe too much) without ever overdoing it like Shark Tale did. Heck, it even has a much better Godfather parody going on here.
It’s also entertaining to see just how much fun the directors have with making sure every single kind of animal fits into this world – from the tiniest hamster to the tallest giraffe (if you’ve ever wondered what an animal nudist retreat would be like, you can find out now).
On the other hand, the story, which is basically a buddy-cop plot with animals, is a little weak, with much of the heavy lifting left to the two partners. Giving the leading role to Goodwin is a good win for the producers, while Bateman is suitably slick and sly as a fox, even if he does veer a little too close to George Clooney’s Mr Fox from Fantastic Mr Fox at times.
Still, it’s a jungle out there when it comes to animated movies with anthropomorphic animals, and unfortunately, the directors of Zootopia seem to play it too safe at times.
Parts of the movie feel a little “been there done that”, and some of the jokes and gags just seem a little too familiar at times.
Still, this is a decent effort – it’s entertaining and fun, and Zootopia does just enough to stand out from the herd. Just add a little bit more bite to the sequel, OK, fellas?
Directors: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush
Voice cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Bonnie Hunt, JK Simmons