Francesca Rudkin is an entertainment reviewer for NZ Herald.

Movie review: Zootopia

Being the first bunny on a police force of big, tough animals isn't easy, but Hopps is determined to prove herself. Photo / Disney
Being the first bunny on a police force of big, tough animals isn't easy, but Hopps is determined to prove herself. Photo / Disney

Disney nails it again. This may be yet another animated animal movie, but, though it has its share of adorable furry characters, there's a lot more to this cartoon crime caper.

Zootopia is a smart, funny and thoughtful fable about trust and tolerance versus prejudice. Our heroine is Judy (Goodwin), the first bunny to graduate from Police College, who finds herself relegated to a parking warden position in the metropolis of Zootopia.

Judy Hopps in Zootopia. Photo / Disney
Judy Hopps in Zootopia. Photo / Disney

Though her parents are thrilled their daughter is out of harm's way, handing out traffic tickets, Judy's determined and wants a piece of the case currently dominating Zootopia - the mysterious disappearance of mammals.

It's a potentially career-ending decision, but Judy takes on the dead-end case of a missing otter, and entraps fast-talking fox and con-artist Nick Wilde (Bateman) to help her solve it.

Judy and Nick's investigation takes them around the distinct environments that make up Zootopia, where they run into dodgy and dangerous characters, many of whom are acquaintances of Nick.

There's chilly Tundratown, hot Sahara Square and the dark and damp Rainforest, all vastly different to the lovely country town of The Burrows where Judy grew up - with 225 brothers and sisters.

Walt Disney Animation Studios' Zootopia features a vast world where humans never existed. Photo / Disney
Walt Disney Animation Studios' Zootopia features a vast world where humans never existed. Photo / Disney

Zootopia is elaborately designed and has a retro-futuristic aesthetic.

When you're not being charmed by Mouse City, a yoga retreat, or hippopotamus drying stations, your focus is on the city's residents, who walk upright. Inspired by Disney's Robin Hood (1973), the animals retain their own characteristics but live in a human world.

It's not just the habitat that's diverse. It's a world where prey and predators of all sizes live happily side-by-side.

Judy Hopps, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin, Nick Wilde, voiced by Jason Bateman from the animated film Zootopia.
Judy Hopps, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin, Nick Wilde, voiced by Jason Bateman from the animated film Zootopia.

However, there's still an underlying level of distrust - Judy's parents give her fox-repellent spray when she embarks on her journey to the big city - and it's this distrust that's being exploited by whoever is trying to destroy Zootopia's equality-driven society.

At times our plucky heroine finds herself in some dark, scary situations facing Godfather-like figures, which are balanced by hilarious gags, including one with a sloth, which the whole family will be reciting the next day.

The many screenwriters credited, including directors Byron Howard (Tangled) and Rich Moore (The Simpsons, Wreck-It Ralph), even manage a dig at Disney's success with Frozen.

Aside from the incredibly likeable characters and good casting, what's so clever about Zootopia is it takes the normal feel-good positive messages, this time about not judging people by their sex or race, and mixes it with something more mature, a vintage Los Angeles-like crime noir.

Zootopia is a must-see these coming school holidays.

Zootopia

Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman
Directors: Byron Howard, Rich Moore
Running Time: 108 mins
Rating: PG (Some scenes may scare very young children)
Verdict: Clever, fun entertainment for the whole family.

- TimeOut

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