What do you think they do for zoos in Zootopia? Do they have cages full of humans that they watch for entertainment? Is there a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Humans? Do they buy pet supplies at Humans R Us?
Zootopia is a buddy cop movie set in a world entirely made up of anthropomorphic animals. Is it more fun that a barrel full of monkeys or as crazy as a loon? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out.
So who stars in this film? Jason Bateman of Arrested Development plays fox Nick Wilde, and Ginnifer Goodwin of Once Upon a Time is rabbit cop Judy Hopps. They’re playing against a menagerie cast that includes Idris Elba (Thor), Bonnie Hunt (Jumanji), J.K. Simmons(the Spider-Man trilogy), Octavia Spencer (The Help), Alan Tudyk (Firefly), and music star Shakira.
Our team of directors include Byron Howard (Tangled and Bolt) and Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph). Their track record is pretty great, but this is their first time working together as far as I know, so the resulting film could go either way.
The trailer opens with a quick setup narration telling us about Zootopia, the city where predators and prey get along in peace. Well, except for Judy’s new neighbors, who get along by disturbing the peace. (Hey, just because they aren’t eating her doesn’t mean they have to be nice about it.) As much of a paradise as this world is, it’s only just now allowing rabbits to serve as police officers. Being a bunny, Judy’s super excited about making the world a better place, fist-bumping her reluctant rhino coworker. Of course, since he’s so much bigger than her, he pushes her across the room. And yet it’s still not as awkward as the fist-bump-ish from Fantastic Four.
But the world is in need of becoming a better place as formerly peaceful animals are turning savage. Must be this election year; look what it’s doing to the candidates. Mothers are gently keeping their children away from animals who look like they might eat the kid, bringing to mind the subtle effects of racism on our behavior around strangers who look different. With the whole city afraid of each other, the police chief puts Judy in the place she’ll be most helpful to the case–on parking duty. But Judy refuses to be the token bunny character, and the chief makes her a deal: solve the case or leave the force. Naturally, she wants to solve the case as quickly as possible, so of course she takes the car that goes 0.2 miles per hour. She could walk on her hands and still go faster than that thing.
Judy’s first move is to interview random fox Nick Wilde because he’s a predator, I guess? Nick says she’s not a real cop, and Judy arrests him. Wow, Judy, I know it hurts, but you can’t arrest a guy for calling you names. But no, it’s because Nick’s been up close and in personal space with a savage predator, making him a key witness. Unfortunately, he gives Judy the slip using the old “Look over there!” trick. I’m starting to suspect that’s how the tortoise really won that race.
The two join forces to solve the case, starting by running a plate at the world’s slowest DMV … mainly because it’s run by sloths. And I thought human DMV wait times were bad. It is, however, made slightly better by the fact that they’re all adorable sloths. Judy takes a quiet moment to tell Nick they’ve only got 36 hours to solve the mystery and they can only do it together. Listen, I appreciate the emotional connection, but given the deadline, shouldn’t you be using this time to, you know, solve the mystery?
The chief implies that Judy’s not capable of being a cop, but Nick tells her not to let the other police animals see that they get to her. “You bunnies,” he says as they hug. “So emotional.” And then he screams as a tiger attacks him. Fear is an emotion too, buddy. The two escape by swinging on a vine. “Don’t let go!” Nick tells Judy. “I’m going to let go!” she replies. Ah, so it’s one of those relationships where you just do the opposite of whatever he tells you.
Wolves hunt with laser-guided guns, lemmings chew on popsicles, and other wolves start to howl as the mysterious Mr. Big says, “We may have evolved, but deep down, we’re still animals.” But at least you haven’t evolved specifically to kill humans (looking at you, After Earth). Judy and Nick wind up in a “Naturalist Club,” which is basically an animal nudist colony, and sometimes I wonder what Disney thinks is too inappropriate for kids. Shakira’s character Gazelle sings the movie’s pop anthem, an elephant sneezes cake onto his wife, and Judy disguises herself as a baby elephant complete with adorable squeaky trumpet. Through a multitude of animal-related visual gags, we’re told, “Life’s a little bit messy. We all make mistakes. No matter what type of animal you are, change starts with you.” No jokes, that’s actually a good lesson, especially for today’s increasingly diverse world. Okay, one joke: “I’m starting with the mammal in the mirror!”
And the trailer ends with Nick and Judy getting nabbed in the back of Mr. Big’s limo, and we find out the city’s most feared crime boss is a tiny shrew with a penchant for The Godfather. He orders his thugs to literally ice the two, but his daughter reminds him of they’re deal: “No icing anyone at my wedding!” As an English major, if they don’t make a Taming of the Shrew reference in this movie, I’m going to be very disappointed.
So based on the trailer, do I recommend the movie? Yes, yes I do. You may have noticed this review has fewer jokes than normal, and that’s for two reasons. First, the film has plenty of humor all on its own, and most of it hits in a very clever way. Second, even from the trailer, it’s clear this movie has some serious and very important messages for children and adults alike. Add in some gorgeous animation, talented cast, and adorable animals, and what’s not to like? I don’t know that I’ll be able to make it to the theater for this one, but I’ll definitely be catching it when it comes out on DVD.
If nothing else, it ought to be a wild time. (Sorry, had to squeeze in one last animal pun.)
Zootopia is owned by Disney.