Review: ZOOTOPIA (2016) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Review: ZOOTOPIA (2016)

Blending strong message of prejudice and discrimination with classic detective story, ZOOTOPIA is a fun yet well-meaning animated comedy.

Animated comedies about talking animals are already done to death, but ZOOTOPIA manages to breathe new life to the otherwise worn-out genre often seen from a Disney production. The result is a surprisingly meaningful, yet exciting animated movie made relevant for both kids and adults.


Ever since she was a kid, Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) dares to dream big by stepping out of the comfort zone to become the first bunny cop. Problem is, no bunny has ever attempted to join the Zootopia Police Department since the job is often reserved for large animals like rhinos and elephants. However, Judy manages to defy all odds as she graduates at the top of her class in the police academy. At the beginning, Judy is happy to find herself being assigned to the toughest precinct in Zootopia. But instead of getting a real police work, her Cape buffalo boss Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) puts her on parking duty as a meter maid.

Her big break finally arrived when Chief Bogo decides to let Judy working on the missing case of Mr. Otterton under one condition: she has only 48 hours to crack the case or resign from the police force. With the help of wily con-artist fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) as her unlikely partner, Judy begins to discover that the missing-otter case leads to a bigger conspiracy.


Sometimes too many cooks in one kitchen can ruin a potentially good meal. Such case happens to a movie as well. But thankfully, ZOOTOPIA is one of those movies where more than one creative mind actually works wonders to blend a coherent motion picture. Thanks to the amazing inputs of Byron Howard (2010's TANGLED), Rich Moore (2012's WRECK-IT RALPH) and Jared Bush, ZOOTOPIA successfully reimagine a vibrant world inhabited by different types of animals where the predators and the preys live together in harmony. And just like the multi-racial human world we are living today, this animated movie also includes relevant topical issues such as racial prejudice and discrimination. Using that as a template, certain predators are either depicted as bullies (such as the Cape buffalo Chief Bogo belittle bunny Judy Hopps in the beginning) or racists/bias (such as the scene in the elephant-dominated ice cream shop). No doubt it was a refreshing change of pace for a Disney animated movie that doesn't shy away from showcasing an honest viewpoint of today's society.

On top of that, familiar but well-executed inspirational themes such as "believe in yourself" and "follow your dream" can be seen in ZOOTOPIA, which is evidently shown throughout Judy's journey of overcoming the impossible to become the very first cop of her kind. If that's not enough, ZOOTOPIA gets interesting with its classic whodunit approach that pays homage to the film noir of the yesteryear. Finally, numerous noteworthy jokes and movie references from THE GODFATHER (1972) to TV's Breaking Bad (2008) further enlivens the bouncy spirit of this entertaining animated movie.

Apart from the strong narrative standpoint, ZOOTOPIA deserves a thumb-up for its impeccable yet spectacular animation. From the lovely animal character design to the elaborate environment of the Zootopia universe, every single detail is meticulously rendered to visual perfection. The action sequences, such as the chase scene between Judy and the weasel crook (Alan Tudyk), are both fun and exhilarating to watch for. Composer Michael Giacchino, in the meantime, hits the spot with his playful jazzy score.

As for the voice cast, they are all pitch perfect. Ginnifer Goodwin delivers a robust yet energetic performance as Judy Hopps, whose optimistic and never-give-up attitude is simply likable. Goodwin pairs well with Jason Bateman, who provides the perfectly slick voice of Nick Wilde. Other supporting voice actors, including everyone from J.K. Simmons to Idris Elba and Colombian pop singer Shakira (who also sings the animated movie's theme song Try Everything), are given ample room to shine in their roles.


The funniest moment happens to be the one that has been heavily promoted in the clip, where Judy tries to get a vital information from a "fastest" sloth (Raymond S. Persi) in the DMV (Department of Motor Mammal Vehicles).


While the level of maturity shown in this animated movie is admirable, there are times the movie struggles to find a perfect balance between the message-filled drama and the light side of the comedy.


Minor shortcoming aside, ZOOTOPIA is by far the best animated movie of the year that is both profound and entertaining.

* This review is written courtesy from Walt Disney Malaysia press screening *

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