DVD Review– Zootopia
The children’s mystery genre is sadly under-explored, with very few decent movies revolving around crimes. Of course, children’s entertainment shouldn’t center around murder, rape, and other violent atrocities, but properly designed, relatively wholesome puzzles are great for developing young minds.
Disney’s recent hit Zootopia is an enjoyable crime comedy for kids. In a world populated by sentient animals, Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) dreams of breaking barriers by being the first rabbit to serve in Zootopia’s police force. The exuberant Hopps’s ambitions are checked by Chief Bogo (Idris Elba), the hard-nosed Cape buffalo who doubts that bunnies have what it takes to maintain law and order. When a series of mysterious disappearances rocks the city, Judy joins forces with the cynical con fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), whose knowledge of the seedy underbelly of Zootopia helps identify the scandalous reasons why residents are vanishing.
The city of Zootopia, filled with every conceivable natural habitat, is an artistic triumph, although the movie never really makes it clear why and how this society came into being. Predators and their traditional prey may live side by side, but what are the predators eating? There’s no declaration of universal vegetarianism. And why is Zootopia populated entirely with mammals? How are these widely different environments (cold and hot zones lie right next to each other) maintained?
Other than some unexplained gaps in the fictional universe’s logic, the film’s biggest shortcoming is the fact that, more than almost any other Disney movie, the moralistic message of tolerance and understanding is almost brutally heavy-handed. I am not decrying the message that individuals from wildly different backgrounds can and should get along, but I do feel that more subtlety should be employed. Kids know when adults are lecturing them. Also, there’s an inadvertent message that the police can get chummy with organized crime and bend the rules if it suits them during an investigation.
There are some pretty well-designed action scenes, but the movie’s funniest moment comes from a scene possibly inspired by Taxi’s “Reverend Jim: A Space Odyssey,” where the protagonists visit a Department of Motor Vehicles staffed entirely by sloths.
Zootopia doesn’t reach the soaring heights of classic Disney films or the studio’s renaissance, but it’s good fun, and there are plenty of jokes and references to classic crime movies and TV shows (ranging from The Godfather to A Shot in the Dark to Breaking Bad) as well as callbacks to earlier Disney productions that only adults will understand. People familiar with the twists and tricks of crime fiction will almost certainly identify the Big Bad early on, and intelligent kids may be able to spot the hidden villain equally easily.
Blu-Ray 3D $39.99