This very funny, action-packed buddy cop comedy also happens to be animated. And it’s one of the best movies of the year.
Zootopia stars Ginnifer Goodwin as the voice of Judy Hops, the first bunny police officer in the city. The city in the title is a place where animals have learned to live together without the vicious cycle of hunter and prey. From her humble beginnings as the daughter of carrot farmers, Judy is the valedictorian of her graduating class at the police academy. She is tiny next to the other animals on the force–rhinos, lions and wolves–and she’s eager to prove herself. However, big Chief Bogo, a surly wildebeest voiced by Idris Elba, assigns her to the boring traffic division, where nothing ever happens.
On her first day, she’s conned by sly fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) and his sidekick Finnick, but she later steps outside her assigned duties to arrest a weasel she catches stealing plant bulbs. Turning him in at the police station, she overhears the wife of one of fourteen missing predators looking for her husband and pledges to find him. The Chief fires her for insubordination, but Deputy Mayor Bellweather (Jenny Slate) congratulates him for entrusting the investigation to the young, female cadet.
The investigation leads Judy to work with con man Nick, and their unlikely pairing is at the heart of the movie.
All this background and setup happens very early, but you can already tell Zootopia is not going to be a typical animated movie for kids. The plot (which is really just starting at that point) is not just sufficiently complicated to keep adults’ attention, it’s intricately written, so that characters and situations early in the movie come back to become relevant parts of the investigation. Just on the basis of writing and plot, it’s much better than the vast majority of live action buddy cop comedies.
The dialogue is not just funny, it’s witty. There is intelligence under the jokes and one-liners that provides social commentary on gender, race and the role of police. For any movie to be so relevant while being so entertaining is an incredible achievement. For an animated movie to do it and do it so well, this may be the first.
I loved this movie. For all the reasons above, but also because the little things are also done so well. The scene with the clerk at the DMV is one of the funniest things in a movie this year. Judy’s parents, voiced by Don Lake and Bonnie Hunt, are the perfect combination of concerned and obstinate in their folksy charm. Jenny Slate as Deputy Mayor Bellweather steals every scene she’s in, which is difficult in a movie this good. And Jason Bateman is perfect as the con man whose heart is too big to truly be the bad guy he pretends to be.
Rarely do I leave a movie eagerly anticipating the sequel, but I hope Zootopia becomes a franchise (which is inevitable given its success). Even if this original magic can’t be duplicated exactly, you will want to see these characters take on another adventure.
|Director||Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush|
|Writer||Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush, Jim Reardon, Josie Trinidad, Phil Johnston, Jennifer Lee, Jared Bush, Phil Johnston|
|Starring||Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba|
|Production||Walt Disney Animation Studios|