By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
The first major contender for best animated feature of the year has arrived. I know. I know. March has barely started and there are still nine months left in 2016. However, this movie really impressed me and I think it will be a tough act to beat. With excellent humor, wonderful messages (to not only children, but adults as well), an outstanding voice cast, and superb computer animation, Zootopia will certainly remain one of my favorite films of the year.
In an alternate version of Earth, where animals evolved into anthropomorphic beings living in civilized societies, a rabbit named Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) has much larger dreams than the typical residents of her small, agricultural community of Bunnyburrow. Judy wants to leave her hometown and become a well-respected police officer in the big city of Zootopia. Her determination gives Judy the drive to graduate from the police academy; however, she has the difficult task of proving her abilities in a career dominated by much larger and more aggressive animals whose less-evolved, ancient ancestors lived as predators.
Despite Judy’s missteps involving a con-artist fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) and another criminal named Duke Weaselton (Alan Tudyk), police chief Bogo (Idris Elba) gives her a major, investigative assignment, expecting her to fail. Judy enlists the help of the streetwise Nick Wilde and the two adversaries form a reluctant partnership. As they dig deeper, Judy and Nick uncover a fiendish plot that will threaten their mostly peaceful society forever.
Writers/directors Byron Howard, Rich Moore, and Jared Bush have made an outstanding animated movie that will not only provide children and adults with highly entertaining comedy and thrills, but will also teach them some valuable life lessons and important messages. In this day and age, where racial tensions have escalated and relations between police and citizens have deteriorated, Zootopia serves as an intelligent parable on those current issues. And adults can definitely benefit from that. Howard, Moore, Bush and co-writers Phil Johnston, Jennifer Lee, Joshie Trinidad, and Jim Reardon have written a story and script that is very well rounded, un-biased, and relevant to problems and issues humanity faces on a daily basis.
The writers and directors manage to deliver their morals to their story well, but also make the whole experience enjoyable, entertaining, and even heart-warming. The humor consists of sharply written and executed gags, puns, and riffs on some of the real traits of animals and humans. The world building in the film is also highly imaginative and visionary. It is equally impressive to brilliant world of Inside Out. The filmmakers have also created some wonderfully thrilling action sequences and some dark, tense and slightly frightening ones. With that in mind, I must warn parents that some of the more perilous and scary moments might be a bit much for smaller children. The movie earns its PG rating and occasionally comes close to PG-13 territory.
Finally, I must offer high praise to the amazing voice actors who helped give the characters the necessary personalities to bring them to life. Ginnifer Goodwin is absolutely lovable as Judy Hopps. Jason Bateman brings a natural attitude and swagger to con-artist Nick Wilde. The booming timbre of Idris Elba gives Chief Bogo the power, temper and authority of a stressed-out, but hard-nosed police chief. The movie also features excellent work by Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Alan Tudyk, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, J.K. Simmons and much more. Some of the casting choices will be more entertaining if I don’t spoil them.
So it should come as no surprise at this point that I must highly recommend this film for any reasonable ticket price. Full-price, matinee, senior-citizen discount, whatever price people can or willing to spend, this movie should not be missed. Audiences should absolutely love this film as much as I do. I feel that it is one of the first excellent films of this year and I think it will continue to hold up until December.