The didactic but entertaining and inventive children’s movie Zootopia is set in a world where animals have long ago evolved past their basest instincts to eat each other and instead live together in productive peace and harmony. However, with a few devious machinations of those in power and with the pot-stirring of the sensationalist media, even the most advanced society can still tear itself apart over physical difference and fear.
Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), a plucky, young rabbit, works hard to become the first of her species to become a Zootopia cop and not just a stereotypical carrot farmer. Once she achieves her goal, graduating top of her class in the police academy and moving to the big city, she is discouraged by her treatment as a token hire in the police department. Although eager to do all that she can to fight crime, Judy is relegated to meter maid duty by Chief Bogo (Idris Elba). However, her drive to do good and her innate investigative sense lead her into a massive conspiracy case that encompasses all of Zootopia—from icy Tundratown to the humid Rainforest. With the reluctant help of wily conman and fox, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), Judy exposes the truth about a string of predators who have seemingly gone mad and sparked panic among the prey-majority citizens.
With its classic buddy-cop set-up and a mysterious case with plenty of twists and turns, Zootopia is pretty standard entertainment for kids and adults—although stretched out for about half an hour too long. There are a few, clever, pop culture references thrown in for good measure, The Godfather and Breaking Bad chief among them, that are sure to please. The heart of the film, however, is its message: discriminating against a person based on their looks (which is to say, race or gender, under the guise here as species and spot on the food chain) is bad. A simple enough message, but in the current political climate, with neo-Nazi Donald Trump still in the running for becoming America’s next president, it is a lesson that still needs to be taught, not just to children, but to adults as well.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 singing and dancing Gazelle apps