The Bock’s Office: ‘Zootopia’ an animated animal of a different kind
March 17, 2016
As "Zootopia" shows, there are a lot of things that separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom, but it's only when you see a critter freak out about nudity that you start to see how alike we can truly be.
If you go…
"Zootopia," rated PG
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Running time: 108 minutes
Starring the voices of: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba and JK Simmons
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In the city of Zootopia, mammals of every kind live side by side, having evolved from the eat-or-be-eaten world that once existed.
The newest resident of this metro menagerie is Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin), a small-town rabbit with a dream of being the first of her species to serve on the city's police force. And, though the bright bunny proves all doubters wrong by rising to the top of her class at the academy, she nevertheless gets little respect from her fellow officers once she's in uniform.
Judy's determination to show her size doesn't define her ability could be her undoing however, when she boldly takes on a case of a missing animal with next to no leads and a stipulation that her job is on the line if she fails.
The search leads her to team up with a con artist named Nick (Jason Bateman), who also happens to be her natural enemy, but there's no time to let differences between predators and prey turn into a problem.
Goodwin brings a bundle of energy to the long-eared, short-statured super cop, entirely capable of anything she might handle if given the chance, though it's hard to convince your boss (Idris Elba) of that when your feet don't even come to the edge of your chair.
Bateman likewise is finely cast as the fast-talking fox who grudgingly partners with Judy in tracking down an otter who's vanished under mysterious circumstances, but the vulpine hustler doesn't intend to make the foray into the criminal underworld easy for the pint-sized wearer of the badge.
Whether you're human or animal, the DMV is all kinds of tedious torture, but at least when you're a sloth behind the desk, you can't help being agonizingly slow…
Let's address the elephant in the room, and no, I don't mean Francine.
Disney's initial premise in its newest cartoon is as broad as can be in explaining how and why animals put aside their beastly behavior and suddenly decided to become civilized, giving us little more than a "just because" mentality. You're not alone if you're wondering why the animals at the top of the food chain just accept that they can't eat whomever they want, and the only predator who can be seen eating is a corpulent cheetah (Nate Torrence) who's said no to speed and hunting in exchange for an unending supply of donuts.
One can only assume that carnivores treat funerals as smorgasbords here.
Yet, the House of Mouse does keep the social aspects of its anthropomorphized animals real with an on-the-nose — snout? — parable about prejudice, the subtext of which gets deeper as it goes.
Yes, there's Judy's battle to be taken seriously as a trailblazer on the police force, but little examples can be glimpsed all over this thinly veiled world of citizens who either get to where they are because that's the way it's supposed to be — the domineering lion mayor (JK Simmons) comes to mind — or get put in their place for trying to break from the status quo, a glaring hypocrisy in a city that says you can be anything you want.
Even our heroine's own parents (Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake) tell their kid from an early age that giving up on your aspirations and accepting your pre-decided role in the world is the key to happiness.
Thanks for believing, Mom and Dad.
Given its target audience, "Zootopia" can be forgiven some of its contrivances in an otherwise beautifully rendered and well-realized tale of being all you can be.
After all, if a three-inch high likeness of Vito Corleone can call the shots for a group of polar bears, there's hope for anyone.
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