Movie Review: ZOOTOPIA (USA 2016) Top 10 *****

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zootopiaZOOTOPIA (USA 2016) Top 10 *****
Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush

Review by Gilbert Seah

ZOOTOPIA is the Utopia for animals, so called because the 10% predators (lions, wolves, foxes) can co-habit side by side with 90 % prey (rabbits and other smaller animals). The status quo is about to be altered when the usually calm predators start exhibiting unruly behaviour threatening the 90% population of the ‘prey’. It is up to the heroine of the story, a wannabe cop by the name of Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) to solve the mystery, CHINATOWN-style and save the animal world.

The premise allows the film plenty of opportunity to reflect and criticize the real world of today – particularly America. If one reads between the lines of the script, there is much more pleasure to be derived, besides just enjoying a Disney movie.

And as for Disney movies go, ZOOTOPIA is the best there is, that I have seen for a long time. The film is clever, funny, superfluously animated with never a dull moment, even for the adults.

The film begins with Judy the bunny, leaving her comfortable home of carrot farming to achieve her dream of becoming a cop. After passing the course, with much effort, she is sent to Zootopia for her first assignment.

The animation is stunning. As the train arrives to Zootopia, the audience is given a birds-eye view of the gorgeous city, recalling the awe when on comes to a new fantasy land as in the movies JURASSIC WORLD and TOMORROWLAND.

The cop world is very similar to the American police system. The tough get the best assignments and Hopps, is given parking ticket duty. The problems she faces with this job are also very similar to the real world. The ticketed complain that they don’t deserve to be ticketed with the same reasons real people do. Judy is so dedicated that she gives herself a parking violation ticket as she forgotten the time on her meter. Though this might sound ridiculous, it should send a message to the police that they are not above the law and should also be bound by the same rules as the general public.

Racism is also examined with a sense of humour. Hopps takes offence of being called ‘cute’, the word bunnies take offence to.

The switch of lambs being the bad villains and the foxes and more ferocious animals being the victims is also a brilliant idea. The ultimate criminal in the film turns out to be the unsuspected meek Deputy Mayor Dawn Belweather (Jenny Slate). The mayor Lionheart (voiced by J.K. Simmons who is also heard in KUNG FU PANDA 3) is pulled away and arrested for the same crime most city mayors are also guilty for.

ZOOTOPIA plays more as a suspense thriller (think CHINATOWN) than action animation. The film also gives an obvious nod to THE GODFATHER films. The film’s funniest segment is the sloth segment (even if you have seen it once in the trailer) in which Hopps and her friend the fox, Nick (Jason Bateman) goes to get a run (see photo in-set) on a license plate. Again, the marvel of Disney animation is reinforced by the tearing on the perorated line of the ticket in slow motion, showing the details of the paper tear.

But it is the humour that makes the film really tick. It is a laugh out loud moment at least every minute. The writers and directors have a great sense of humour, clear from the film’s very start. There are a lot of rabbit jokes, the funniest ones poking at the rate they populate. Judy, has for example, 365 brothers and sisters and the population numbers on the town Bunnyborrow is constantly ticking upwards.

The film denounces power and all the evil power brings with it. Though a bit preachy with a voiceover at the end, ZOOTOPIA is near movie perfection – yes, the Utopia of animation. Even the ending song “Try Everything” sung by a gazelle that is supposed to be Shakira is nothing short of brilliant.

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