Zootropolis

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Walt Disney’s 55th ‘official’ animated feature is set in a city that regards itself as a zoic utopia. But is it? Probably the funniest film of the year so far.

 

 

Zootropolis II

 

In America, Disney’s 55th ‘official’ animated feature is called Zootopia, which makes a lot more sense. Here, we have a thriving, modern megalopolis in which all animals are equal and live in perfect harmony. After millennia of the law of the jungle, the animal kingdom has finally come to reconcile its differences and has built a city where every critter can co-exist and prosper. It is, ergo, a zoic utopia. And it’s here that our protagonist, an idealistic rabbit called Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin), plans to move to become the very first lapine officer of the ZPD, a constabulary run by Chief Bogo (an imposing cape buffalo). But Judy is to discover quick enough that in the ranks of the police a rabbit is no equal to the bigger animals. Thus, on her very first day she is assigned to parking-meter duty and is variously referred to as “Carrots,” “Cottontail,” “Flopsy” and “Dumb Bunny.” However, Judy is no ordinary rabbit and readily admits that she doesn’t know when to quit. Her parents, carrot farmers in the rural community of Bunnyburrow, were the first to suppress her dreams, preferring acquiescence to ambition. But Judy wants to make a difference and her smarts make up for her lack of stature, while her tenacity knows no bounds…

 

This being Disney, the moral is writ large. Of course, we are all animals, but some of us are smaller, hairier and darker than others. But that doesn’t mean we can’t pull our weight. This being Disney, every minute of Zootropolis is also packed with visual ingenuity, splendid sight gags, rapid-fire one-liners and some genuinely thrilling moments. And Disney films don’t pander to the youngest common denominator. Thus words like “multitudinous” and “actuary” are trotted out in the opening minutes, reassuring parents that they should stay tuned.

 

It goes without saying that the computer animation is miraculous and, unlike in so many Hollywood films, the voice work is both clear and expressive. Jason Bateman is wonderful as a fox with a chip on his shoulder, and Idris Elba delightfully dry and brutal as the chief of police (“Didn’t forget. Just don’t care.”). Thus, an exceptionally witty array of wisecracks is not lost in the turmoil (“I mean, I am just a dumb bunny, but we are good at multiplying;” “Doug is the opposite of friendly. He is un-friendly;” “He was an animal!;” “Life is not a cartoon;” "We may be evolved, but deep down we are still animals;" and Jason Bateman, on the sheepish mayoral assistant: " Do you think when she goes to sleep, she counts herself?” And, Bateman again: “What do you call a three-humped camel? Pregnant!”

Zootopia – or call it Zootropolis – is probably the funniest film of the year so far, and with its relentless invention, in-jokes and panoply of characters, the best cartoon we’ve seen since Inside Out. It certainly makes up for Pixar’s rather workaday and underwhelming The Good Dinosaur, which Disney distributed last year.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Tommy Chong, Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate, Shakira, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Alan Tudyk, Tom Lister Jr, Rich Moore, Byron Howard, Kristen Bell.

 

Dir Byron Howard and Rich Moore, Pro Clark Spencer, Ex Pro John Lasseter, Screenplay Jared Bush and Phil Johnston, Ph Thomas Baker, Pro Des David Goetz, Ed Fabienne Rawley and Jeremy Milton, Music Michael Giacchino.

 

Walt Disney Pictures/Walt Disney Animation Studios-Walt Disney.

108 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 25 March 2016. Cert. PG.