Cute and clever in equal measure, Disney's Zootropolis is an animated movie (opens in new tab) to gladden kids and adults alike.
The setting supplies the cuteness, an exuberantly anthropomorphic world populated by animals of every stripe, who walk on their hind legs, wear clothes and display all too recognisably human traits.
The cleverness comes from a script that combines sight gags, satire and a cunning mystery plot with some wholesome moral lessons about prejudice and diversity.
Bright-eyed and cotton-tailed, rabbit heroine Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) is the story’s eager idealist, determined to break down barriers and become the first bunny cop of the title city (the film is called Zootopia in the US), a bustling metropolis where prey and predators live together in harmony.
And she does make it into the ranks of the Zootopia Police Department, thanks to her irrepressible zest and the Mammal Inclusion Initiative of Mayor Lionheart (JK Simmons). The ZPD’s chief, a gruff water buffalo voiced by Idris Elba, reckons she is only suited to traffic duty, but Judy won’t be fobbed off with the role of meter maid.
Instead, she’s set on solving a series of puzzling disappearances among the city’s residents and cajoles sly con-artist fox Nick Wilde (a slyly funny Jason Bateman proving an ideal foil for Goodwin’s perky zeal) into helping her.
Film noir aficionados will love the way the film sets up and solves this mystery. Yet unlike the knowingly grown-up jokes that are sometimes inserted into other animated movies, the crafty nods to Chinatown and The Godfather feel totally fitting here. And the vivid characters and lively action means that even when younger viewers miss the references they’re not excluded from the fun.
Certificate PG. Runtime 108 mins. Directors Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush
A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.
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