There’s something for everyone with Disney’s latest animated classic, “Zootopia,” which arrived in theaters Friday.
The appeal for children should be obvious as kids will be drawn to the vibrant world of the film, where animals of all shapes and sizes co-exist in harmony, while behaving and working like human beings.
Parents will get to revel in all of the subtle (and not so subtle) hidden jokes stashed throughout as the film goes out of its way to make “Zootopia” equally appealing for adults. For example, a large subplot of the film parodies Marlon Brando’s larger than life character in “The Godfather” and is one of the best comedic representations of the gangster classic ever.
“Zootopia” offers a complex, wonderfully developed world filled a nearly unlimited assortment of animals as viewers follow a young rabbit named Judy as she struggles to become, and later fit in, as a police officer in the big city of Zootopia.
Paired with a con-artist fox and tasked with tracking down a missing otter, Judy’s adventure is one part buddy cop flick and two parts vintage film noir, mixed in Disney’s superior animation style and littered with top notch vocal talent.
Visually, the film from directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore and co-director Jared Bush is vivid and dynamic with each district within “Zootopia” having its own distinct cinematic style. Rural Bunnyburrow feels lifted straight from early spring advertisements for Peeps while the Rainforest District is dark and drips of tension pulled from “The African Queen.”
Every single frame of “Zootopia” is littered with immense detail, both in the technical wizardry required to create the film and within the countless Easter eggs for fans to chuckle at during inevitable second, third, or 50th viewings of the film in theaters or at home.
Ginnifer Goodwin of the television show “Once Upon a Time” is refreshing and charming as the voice of Judy, while Jason Bateman is ideally cast as the slick, wisecracking fox Nick Wilde. Their banter propels “Zootopia” through both hilarious and emotional moments; Goodwin and Bateman both prove more than up for the task.
The film’s talented ensemble cast astounds as well, led by Idris Elba as a water buffalo who’s chief of police, Octavia Spencer as a grieving otter, J.K. Simmons as a lion elected mayor of Zootopia and indie comic Jenny Slate as a meekly sheep serving as assistant mayor.
Messages run deep within “Zootopia,” led by the universally understood “anyone can be anything they want to be” that propels Judy on her journey to become a police officer despite skepticism from everyone around her.
Disney also tackles diversity issues head-on with great success, using the film’s central storyline to explore topics such as racial profiling and stereotyping. “Zootopia” focuses on the concept of predators versus prey – where 90 percent of mammals are prey and only 10 percent are predators – to help make well designed points about acceptance and inclusion.
There are numerous stereotypes within “Zootopia,” but universally they are about the jobs the animals hold and done for comedic effect. Bateman’s slick fox opens the film as a hustler, the workers at the Department of Mammal Vehicles (DMV) are slow-moving sloths and there’s a terrific “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” joke about bankers being lemmings that will have fans of Oscar nominee “The Big Short” rolling in their seats.
Along with “Frozen” and “Big Hero 6” before it, Walt Disney Animation Studios continues an astounding trend of producing most of the decade’s best animated films and represents the studio’s best three-picture run since the early 90s brought viewers “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin” and “The Lion King.”
Parents and children of all ages will enjoy this layered, hilarious entry into the family friendly film genre and a movie sure to give the long anticipated sequel to “Finding Nemo” – the aptly titled “Finding Dory” – a run for its money when that Pixar film arrives this summer.
Regardless of genre, “Zootopia” is perhaps the most complete film to arrive so far in 2016 and without a doubt is a can’t miss experience for young and old alike in theaters.