Review: Zootropolis – Social commentary disguised as family-friendly animation

With controversy around intolerance surrounding many aspects of life at the moment, this film couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Reports of minorities being treated poorly in many different industries (not least of all, Hollywood) and seemingly constant fear and rejection of people of foreign descent or appearance, Zootropolis attempts to highlight the effect this has on those suffering, and also those who cause it through fearmongering and such.

When Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) becomes the ZPD’s first Rabbit Police Officer, she travels to the city of Zootropolis, fit and ready to ‘make the world a better place’. However she quickly finds out that the cosmopolitan world of Zootroplis isn’t as shiny as she thought it was. On her first day she meets a sly fox called Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) – if you couldn’t guess from the name – who quickly hustles her out of a few bucks, only to have the favour reciprocated to pressure him to help her solve a seemingly unsolvable case.

First thing to note about this film is that it’s funny. Like, really funny. It is swamped with those unalienable Disney jokes containing multiple layers for those of all ages, and also various references. This is partly down to the exceptional script and direction from Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush and Phil Johnson, but also the excellent vocal work from what is, by all accounts, a star-studded cast, with the two leads supported by the likes of Idris Elba, J. K. Simmons, Alan Tudyk, and even an appearance from Shakira, who also provides an uplifting accompaniment for the soundtrack (which I reckon will be hard pressed to be beaten for the Oscar next year).

Amongst the humour and well-crafted story, there is a lot of heart in this film. On many levels it is quite a standard, run-of-the-mill arc between Hopps and Wilde, yet it also goes a lot deeper. It looks into the effects that unwarranted intolerance and exclusivity has on people and the deeper psychological effects that it can cause further down the line. It highlights this through various means, such as Wilde’s interactions with others, flashback sequences to incidents in youth and also general people’s (well, animals’) reactions and reasons for acceptance of minorities, and the damage that intolerance can cause, no matter the reason. This film provides a completely relevant social message that resonates strongly, yet also provides heaps of entertainment simply as a film and takes the recent Disney renaissance to the next level. I hesitate to say it, but it might even be up there with the likes of Inside Out.

Matt Bolland

Image courtesy of Disney


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