There was, of course, no question, once the great reviews started coming in, that we would all go see Disney’s latest animated feature, Zootopia. In fact, with the Barbarienne around, reviews-be-damned, she and I, minimally would go see it. But we ended up going to see it on The Boy’s birthday, it being the best option of all available films we had not yet seen.
It has been interesting to watch the Lasseter-ization of Disney. Beginning with Bolt, which he apparently steered out of its mediocrity, and culminating, in a lot of ways, with Frozen, which owes its incongruous villain to him encouraging the team to pursue what, ultimately, was a better (and, of course, wildly successful) storyline.
Zootopia is, in short, better. The characters are well-developed. They’re flawed, but likable. Cute but not cloying. There’s a message of diversity that only a Social Justice Warrior could hate—and, indeed, the few negative reviews there are for this film seem to revolve around the movie not addressing the delicate social-message sensibilities of the critic just so.
Our heroes are a brave little rabbit cop and a cynical fox grifter who team up to solve the mystery of what’s causing various carnivores in the city to go feral. This is such an obvious set-up for ham-handed moralizing about differences of race and creed, that it’s easy to overlook that it’s also an amazing set-up for quality humor, such as the “Far Side” empire was essentially built on. The movie offers some (I thought predictable) twists and turns that keep one from comfortably indulging in a particular set of prejudices, and opts first to be funny and/or heart-warming.
This is good. Political movies suck and everyone hates them.
Full credit to directors Byron Howard (Tangled, Bolt) and the great Rich Moore. Moore directed Wreck-It Ralph, but also directed many classic episodes of “The Simpsons”, “Futurama” and “The Critic”, while they were at their funniest. (OK, “The Critic” was always funny, but it only ran for 23 episodes.) I think we can declare the man’s talent to be Not-A-Fluke. I would guess the cast was heavily influenced by Moore, as it gives nice roles to Maurice LeMarche (who was central to “The Critic” and played a multitude of characters of “Futurama”), John DiMaggio (“Futurama”), and Kath Soucie (“The Critic”, “Futurama”).
The face actors are good, too. Even if Idris Elba counts as stunt casting, he’s good (in a role that might have gone to the late Michael Clarke Duncan a few years ago). Ginnifer Goodwin (currently reigning as Snow White in “Once Upon A Time”) is really wonderful as Officer Hopps, and Jason Bateman was basically born to play the grifter fox. (I mean, his first sitcom as a teen had him as a kid sociopathically manipulating his mom. It’s nearly typecasting.)
Besides the solid story and characters, and a decent plot, the movie is jam-packed with love. Every scene is an opportunity for some gag or another, in true Pixar fashion, giving every moment an additional layer for the attentive, the OCD and their beleaguered parents. The sheer impossibility of the situation—a city where all animals live together in relative harmony—makes for some many jokes just involving scale. And there are a ton of jokes riffing on the animal versions of Disney properties, much like the end credits of Pixar’s Cars.
No songs. Great score by Michael Giacchino (The Incredibles, Up).
Maybe not as Amazing as a near perfect RT score might have you believe. But great, nonetheless.