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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Movie Review - Zootopia

Zootopia (2016)
Featuring the vocal talents of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Tommy Chong, J.K. Simmons, Alan Tudyk, Shakira, Maurice LaMarche, and Octavia Spencer
Directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore

Amusing and creative, Zootopia is an engaging animated film with clever gags, solid animation, and quality voice acting.  While some critics deemed this Disney's best animated film in decades, I'm not willing to go there.  However, once you get past the rather lengthy exposition at the film's outset, its story becomes quite engaging and easily is able to win over its audience of both kids and adults alike.

Zootopia takes us a world that is completely made up of anthropomorphic animals where the concept of predators and prey don't exist; rather everyone coexists peacefully.  As the flick begins, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) has just moved to the big titular city from the small rural town of Bunnyburrow with the aspirations to become the first rabbit police officer in the Zootopia Police Department.  While she eventually succeeds at achieving her dream, she's given very little respect by her superiors -- including water buffalo police chief Bogo (Idris Elba) -- and is tasked with being a lowly traffic cop.  In the course of her mundane duties, Judy runs across sly fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) who she feels in conducting some type of shady business, but she can't quite put her finger on it.  Back at the police station one afternoon, a concerned Mrs. Otterton (Octavia Spencer) pleads with Chief Bogo to search for her missing husband, but when Bogo seemingly pushes Mrs. Otterton aside, Judy jumps at the opportunity to work on a real case.  Bogo, seeing this as an opportunity to get rid of the overly ambitious Judy, tells the rabbit she has 48 hours to find Mrs. Otterton's husband Emmitt or else she must give up her position as a cop.  Desperate to keep her job and prove her worth, Judy tracks down Nick and bribes him into helping her.  The duo travels through the many landscapes of Zootopia and discover a nefarious plot that is turning the now peaceful predators into vicious animals again.

If that seems like a bit of a lengthy summarization, that's because I feel like it is...and that's the biggest problem I had with Zootopia.  The film just takes too long to get rolling -- too much exposition at the start and not enough verve to keep my interest.  Fortunately, once Judy and Nick head out on their mission to track down Emmitt Otterton, things begin to pick up and the film becomes filled with clever jokes and clever humanization of animals.  While the film's script doesn't really lend itself to those heart-wrenching or emotionally uplifting moments we've found in Pixar's films, it still ends up successfully balancing its comedic and dramatic moments in the film's final two acts.

Jason Bateman is perfect casting as Nick with the slick fox emanating Bateman's smart-alecky persona.  Ginnifer Goodwin is spot-on sweet as Judy, a character that could grow irksome in her perfectionism, but doesn't thanks to the vocals provided by the actress.  Nice turns also come from Don Lake and Bonnie Hunt (one of my favorite comediennes) as Judy's parents, the aforementioned Elba as the tough-as-nails police chief, and Jenny Slate as a tiny sheep playing assistant to the mayor of Zootopia.

The animators and screenwriters prove to be clever in their homages to other films and to human existence itself.  Puns abound, but never feel too in-your-face or over-the-top which is a good thing because these plays on words/plays on human culture could've gotten old quickly.  Instead, they add atmosphere to the animal environment.  In the end, Zootopia is a worthy entrant to the Disney animated canon, but it doesn't quite match the levels of the company's best.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

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