Zootopia (2016) – reviewed by George

This animated Disney film begins, like others in the past (Snow White, Dumbo, Cinderella), with bullying. In this case the bullying is directed at a girl rabbit, Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin), the child of rural carrot farmers (voices of Bonnie Hunt and Don Lake). Her desire to protect and serve others leads her to go against the wishes of her parents and attend the local police academy, from which she graduates with top honors. She is accepted into the ZPD, the Zootopia Police Department, Zootopia being the nearest large city. Once a new recruit, however, she is assigned by Chief Bogo (voice of Idris Elba) to parking duty (as ZPD’s first rabbit cop he thinks her too small for regular duty). All those dreams and she is a meter maid!
However, if that is her job, she will do it better than anyone else. Told to issue 100 citations on her first day, she issues 100 before lunch. She meets a young tough, a fox (voice of Jason Bateman) named Nick Wilde. She follows up on a  missing person case that no one else thinks important enough to pursue. And Judy and Nick crack a huge case, where finding the vanished Mr. Otterton is only the first big clue.
This is an unusually dark piece for Disney, and by that I mean poorly lit, one of my real annoyances. But it has humor, and charm, and a real message about diversity and acceptance of others. You see, it turns out that prey species are 90% of Zootopia’s population, so the predators, who are unfairly stigmatized, as if they were taking over, are only one-tenth of the folks there. And the plot which is afoot is designed to make the predators look crazy and dangerous.
The first big laugh for me came when Judy and Nick visited the DMV and found it run by sloths. The next big laugh was their interview with Mr. Big (voice of Maurice LaMarche), a tiny Godfather who sounds a lot like Marlon Brando.
All the voice performers are great, and that includes J K Simmons as Mayor Lionheart, Jenny Slate as his secretary Miss Bellwether, Nate Torrence as  the Policeman at the desk Officer Clawhauser, Tommy Chong as a guru yak, Octavia Spencer as Mrs. Otterton, Alan Tudyk as Duke Weaselton, and Shakira as the singer Gazelle. Kristen Bell is in there too voicing Priscilla, but I don’t remember a Priscilla, so….
Directed by Byron Howard and Rick Moore, and Co-Directed by Jared Bush, with a Screenplay by Jared Bush and Phil Johnston, this is a good movie to see with your kids and then talk to them about it. Even if they are too young for the message, they will have a lot of fun with the adventure, and they can admire Judy and her determination and spirit. And the way she and Nick get along despite their differences, which are all superficial anyway.

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