So I watched Zootopia…
I wasn’t really expecting much from this movie. Animated films are good more times than not so I thought it would be a quality production but not life-changing. So when I missed out on seeing it in theatres, I wasn’t heartbroken. After finally getting to watch it, I have a real sense of regret that I missed experiencing it on the big screen.
Okay, basic plot: Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) – a rabbit from the rural town of Bunnyburrow has dreamed of being a police officer since she was a child. This dream is met with skepticism and mockery from her friends and family because police officers are usually larger, more physically intimidating animals not “cute bunnies”. Despite all of this negativity, Judy perseveres and realises her dream. The true challenge is only beginning, however, as Judy has to battle prejudice and discrimination – both in and out of the police force – based on the fact that she’s a rabbit. Eager to prove herself she takes on an impossible case and – with no help from her colleagues in the force – she’s forced to turn to a shifty fox con artist named, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) for help.
I know we’re only halfway through the year and we have yet to reach the ‘Oscar-movie season’ – where most of the best films of the year get released – but I have to say that Zootopia has to be put down as an early front-runner for the best film of the year. If not that at least the most socially important film of the year. This film speaks to many of the issues society is currently dealing with and has always been dealing with. Issues of prejudice, discrimination, profiling are all handled wonderfully by this film. In this film society is split into two major pools – predators (e.g. lions, foxes, bears) and prey (e.g. sheep, rabbits, shrews), and the issues the members of Zootopia have to deal with are easily translatable to the issues that are making headlines everyday.
Predators have to deal with being thought of as dangerous and blood-thirsty while prey have to deal with being thought weak and too ‘cute’ to do anything purposeful. The film also addresses stereotypes that exist in the animal kingdom like elephants having good memory or foxes being sly and conniving. Substitute in issues of race, religion, culture, patriotism and you see that Zootopia is a perfect analogy for our current world where fear and ignorance rule over compassion and common sense. This is a great movie because it’s going to make you think and reevaluate your stand on things. The great thing about this movie is that it shows the issue of discrimination from both sides, a viewpoint often lacking when it comes to such problems in society. This allows the focus of the movie to not be pitting the two sides against each but rather showing how the two sides can work harmoniously (differences and all) to unity.
There are plenty of political undertones and messages to be drawn from Zootopia but this isn’t an overly-serious political piece. I mentioned earlier that animations tend to be good more often than not and I believe that this is true because all of the truly great animations deal with complex, emotionally-charged issues that force you to think but present them with levity and bright colours so the thinking doesn’t feel like a strain. Zootopia is no different. There is a plethora of amazing jokes and heartwarming moments that will have you laughing and smiling throughout the film. One of my favourites was when Judy and Nick need to go to the local Traffic Department and all of the employees are literally sloths. If you’ve ever had to apply/renew your licence, you’ll realise just how fitting this little joke is.
The voice acting in this film is splendid. Ginnifer Goodwin – who I really want to see more of in film – does a fantastic job bringing Judy Hopps to life. She’s funny, sincere and has this neverending supply of energy which perfectly matched the character. Jason Bateman also puts in a great turn as Nick Wilde – a con artist who Judy is forced to work with. I’ve seen Bateman in quite a few productions from film to TV and his performances alway have a sympathetic quality to them. Usually he’s cast as a straight man who’s the victim of circumstance so you naturally have to like and root for him but in this film he’s a lot sketchier; but he still invokes that feeling of empathy. His character isn’t perfect but you want him to succeed. The entire voice cast does well but I have to single out Idris Elba as Chief Bogo and Nate Torrence as Officer Clawhauser. They were both entertaining and apart from the two leads drew the biggest laughs out of me.
The only real problem I had with this movie was that it was slightly predictable. Now I watch a lot of movies and because of this, I’ve learnt to pick up certain patterns. Now for the average movie-goer, these patterns slip by but if you pick them up then you can work out where the plot is going exactly and the ‘big twists’ of a movie end up being tired reveals. So while I did see the end of this movie coming literally seven minutes into it, the casual viewer probably won’t and the ride to the ending is so much fun that you won’t care.
Overall, Zootopia is a fantastic film. It has a wonderful script that is incredibly relevant to the world we live in and enough humour and fun that you won’t feel like you’re watching a lecture on the importance of tolerance. I foresee it being quite close to the top of my list of best movies of the year. 8/10