(directed by Byron Howard & Rich Moore, 2016)
****+ (out of 5)
> Critics absolutely loved this Disney animated treat, and audiences seemed to agree. Count me in! Even though this project sounded silly and childish and the previews looked to verify this assumption, ZOOTOPIA was that rare animal- an original story that played equally well for adults and children. I could not have enjoyed it more.
. The characters were unusually well defined, voiced by accomplished actors like Jason Bateman and Idris Elba. The title song, belted out with verve by Shakira, was that increasing cartoon rarity: a good song, well sung. I was stoked to see the film celebrate the mistakes we make, as crucial learning opportunities.
. ZOOTOPIA is actually a detective mystery, involving the first bunny-cop in this utopia where traditional prey and predators have learned to live in harmony, and her unlikely partner- a con artist fox. Kids loved the talking animals; adults were treated to a fine, fun, literate script that never talked down to them. Several laugh-out-loud funny moments were clearly aimed at the adults in the audience. The scene at a DMV manned by painfully slow sloths, was a one-joke gag- drawn out as far as it could possibly go. Yet, the longer the scene played the funnier it became. I cannot recall ever laughing so loudly at a Disney cartoon, (though I remember THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES as being similarly mirthful).
. I noticed six (or was it seven?) screenwriters listed in the credits. This is usually a very poor sign, often indicating that too many chefs have spoiled the broth. Not so here. This zesty romp was remarkably tight and coherent for having so many contributors. Though the ‘message’ of ZOOTOPIA was fairly labored and obvious, (tolerance, equality, empathy, justice), it was genuinely moving. In fact, it’s a liberal’s wet dream personified, dealing with weighty ideas like inequality, respect, trust, stereotyping, bullying and prejudice. That’s reaching pretty high for a family film.
. I enjoyed this film so thoroughly I am looking forward to seeing it again someday. Bravo!
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