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With: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Tommy Chong, J.K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk, Shakira, Raymond S. Persi, Della Saba, Maurice LaMarche, Kristen Bell (voices)
Written by: Jared Bush, Phil Johnston, based on a story by Byron Howard, Jared Bush, Rich Moore, Phil Johnston, Jennifer Lee, Josie Trinidad, Jim Reardon, Dan Fogelman
Directed by: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush
MPAA Rating: PG for some thematic elements, rude humor and action
Running Time: 108
Date: 03/05/2016

Zootopia (2016)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Animal Charm

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Disney's Zootopia has some big ideas, some cuddly ones, and some very funny ones. Sometimes it may seem like these ideas are fighting for space, but the filmmakers keep the tone so light and vibrant that it all works.

Zootopia is the 55th official Disney feature animated movie, and its computer-generated creatures have been given very smooth and cheerful lines, closer to old-style "stretch-and-squash" animation. Everything feels wonderfully fluid and graceful.

It opens with cute young talking animals putting a stage play, informing us that this is a world wherein creatures have evolved; predator and prey now live together in harmony, especially in the big city of Zootopia.

Judy Hops, a cute bunny rabbit (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) wants to be the first-ever rabbit cop there.

Her parents don't exactly encourage her dream ("the secret of happiness is to give up and settle"), but she tries anyway. She reports for work in the middle of a juicy missing-persons (missing-beasts?) case, but the chief (voiced by Idris Elba) assigns her to write parking tickets.

On the job, she is fooled by a sly con artist, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman). When the exasperated chief gives her 48 hours to find one of the missing animals, Judy tricks Nick into helping her.

The disappearances revolve around a series of occurrences in which predators have suddenly gone savage and attacked prey.

The movie turns a bit weighty when the prey residents of Zootopia begin to fear the predators, treating them with hatred and prejudice; it's a clear parable that won't be lost on young viewers, and may even remind adults of some of the issues swirling around the current election process.

Also for grownups, Zootopia has not-so-subtle references to The Godfather and Breaking Bad, as well as a brilliant — already previewed — sequence with sloths who work at the DMV. (As a bonus, confessed sloth fan and Frozen star Kristen Bell has an uncredited cameo as a girl sloth.)

Surprisingly, the mystery story itself is quite clever and involving, and the developing relationship between Judy and Nick flows along with it nicely, albeit with a few hiccups.

Every so often, a bit of excellent voicework buoys things as well: J.K. Simmons as a lion mayor, Tommy Chong as a yak, Octavia Spencer as a sweet otter, and more.

Pop star Shakira plays a pop star called "Gazelle," whose uplifting song "Try Everything" is cleverly placed throughout the movie and will surely be performed at the Oscars next year. In keeping with that theme, Zootopia tries a bit of everything, and largely succeeds.

Disney's Blu-ray release confirms that Zootopia gets better with each viewing. I've seen it three times now and I feel I underrated it in my initial review. The set comes with a bonus DVD and digital copy, previews, and optional subtitles and audio tracks. The fun extras include several behind-the-scenes featurettes, some deleted characters and deleted scenes, a music video for "Try Everything," and a featurette that points out some of the movie's (very subtle) Easter Eggs. Picture and sound are superb.

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