Zootopia is the greatest city of the animal world, where all species* live together in relative harmony**. The city is a beautiful construction of the scene designer’s art, a modernized Metropolis (or Duckburg), divided into climatically controlled neighborhoods suiting various tastes in habitat. There are also some very clever adaptations allowing large creatures like elephants and giraffes to co-exist with mice and shrews.
(* All species, as long as they are mammals. I don’t recall seeing any intelligent birds or reptiles, and insects aren’t represented. For that matter, there are no apes or monkeys, either, at least not with speaking roles.)
(** It’s glossed over what the civilized carnivores eat. The only foods we see on screen are rabbit-raised vegetables, frozen desserts, and doughnuts. Hey, it’s a cop movie, gotta have doughnuts--.)
The early part of the film follows rookie cop movie clichés: Judy graduates top of her police academy class through grit and wit, is accepted by the Zootopia Police Department under the Mayor’s affirmative action program, and then is assigned to parking patrol by Chief Bogo (Irdis Elba), since all the other police officers are large, powerful animals. Frustrated, Judy shoehorns herself into an unsolved missing persons case, wagering the Chief that she will resign if she doesn’t crack the case in 48 hours.
She does so, and normally this is where the movie would end. Judy keeps her job, gets a commendation, and becomes the public face of the Police. However, there’s a larger mystery yet unsolved, and Judy doesn’t help ease public fears.
How Judy and Nick solve the greater problem, expose the ultimate villain, and resolve their difficult relationship takes up the second part of the film, which is also interesting and exciting.
The film is really clever in a lot of ways. We will see it again just to look at backgrounds and character designs. While using a lot of cliché characters (the gruff police chief, the doughnut-gobbling desk officer), the film also has a lot to say about “profiling” such as the “dumb bunny” or “sly fox” caricatures and how this causes people to sometimes live down to expectations.
Good clean fun for all ages, although (as the toddler behind us demonstrated) some action sequences and snarling beasts may be too intense for young children.
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