While many animated movies are unfairly dismissed as being just fluffy fun to keep the kids quiet for a couple of hours, Zootropolis is here to prove that they can be every bit as complex, sincere and meaningful as any other kind of film.
Taking Walt Disney’s time-honoured tradition of anthropomorphised animals to often literal new heights, we centre in on the titular city populated by animals – where the largest elephant and smallest mouse live their bustling lives shoulder to shoulder in relative harmony.
When plucky bunny rabbit Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) leaves her country life and family behind to be a cop in the big city, she learns how tough it really is compared to her idealistic expectations.
She then attempts to prove her worth and keep her job by taking on an assignment investigating missing citizens, but this means that she is forced to work with wily con artist fox Nick Wilde (snarkily voiced by Jason Bateman).
This gorgeously animated, wonderfully optimistic treat of a film functions as both a hugely entertaining adventure and as a thoughtful social commentary with a pleasingly inclusive message about anti-bullying, thinking before you act and living together in peace despite obvious (and not-so-obvious) differences.
Directing team Rich Moore, Byron Howard and Jared Bush have created a fully realised animated world that goes beyond whizz-bang action, with scrupulous attention to the little details – from the buildings to the individual hairs on the mammals’ bodies – that may only be evident for a second on-screen for the viewer but all help to make sure we believe in this eclectic animal world.
It’s chock-full of witty dialogue, loveable, well-drawn (pardon the pun) characters and creative set-pieces that make full and clever use of the surrounding environment – many of the chase sequences would rival the big live-action blockbusters. It’s this dynamic approach that helps it stand above most other big-budget animated fare released these days.
It’s often a cynical move for animated movies to chuck in the odd joke here and there to keep the adults amused but here it manages to fully earn that right by sinuously working them in rather than allowing them to overwhelm the plot. So you’ll find unabashed references to The Godfather and Breaking Bad nestled in amongst brightly coloured slapstick and a film-stealing extended gag about sloths dealing with paperwork in painfully slow fashion that will have audiences young and old alike chuckling with glee.
Does it rival modern Disney classics like Frozen, Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph? Time will tell. But Zootropolis is a film that hits that sweet spot of being wittily self-aware but also utterly sincere in its intentions as an energetic, unashamedly glass- half-full piece of blockbuster animation. The fact that it has something real to say about acceptance, tolerance and looking beyond stereotypes makes it all the more special.