Alex Casey is a staff writer for New Zealand pop culture-obsessed website The Spinoff and columnist for the NZ Herald.

Movie review: Zootopia

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Latest Disney offering is important, intellectual and hilarious and should be seen by young and old.
Judy Hopps, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin.
Judy Hopps, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin.

Attention all parents stressed by the school holidays, non-parents, precocious children reading the newspaper and any random bystander reading this over somebody's shoulder on the bus: you need to go and see the children's film Zootopia as soon as you can.

Do not be perturbed by the animation and animals, this movie is important, intellectual and hilarious. In fact, I am proud to publicly say that my partner and I were the only childless adults in the entire cinema, and I am also proud to say that I silently cried twice.

The latest original offering from Disney, from the same people who made Wreck-It Ralph and Tangled, Zootopia uses cute animals to send an incredibly timely and important message about overcoming prejudice and being more understanding towards your fellow beast. Don't go to sleep, please keep reading.

Set in a world where predator and prey live alongside in harmony - and even wear stylish clothes - Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) is the first bunny to ever make it on to the police force. From her small carrot-farming country town, she heads bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to Zootopia. The city is supposed to be a mammalian melting pot mecca - a place where anyone can be anything. On her arrival she discovers - after travelling through different habitats such as the Vegas-esque Sahara Square and the chilly Tundratown - that utopian ideals and aspirations aren't as easily achieved in reality.

She is overlooked by her coworkers, excluded from risky assignments and called "cute" by the male receptionist.

My heart soared when she rebutted that only bunnies can call other bunnies "cute", and that it made her uncomfortable when someone else did it.

I thought to myself about all the time I've been called "bub" "honey" or "babe" by senior employees in past workplaces and refrained from saying something so as to not cause a fuss. If I, at 24 years old, feel empowered by a cartoon bunny setting things straight, then god help all ye who encounter all those Fanta-sipping 7-year-olds leaving the screening.

Beyond these pitch-perfect moments, the story as a whole is an allegorical exploration of the trappings of prejudice, whether it be aimed towards people of different gender, race or religion.

It serves as a modern day Animal Farm, without the ruddy old book that you have to pretend you've read. Realising she's going to have to find another way to shatter the rabbit glass ceiling, Judy Hopps sets about cracking her own assignment with an unlikely sidekick - a fox named Nick (voiced by Jason Bateman).

I won't give too much away, but once you see the film, it's hard not equate "the fox" or "the predators" with groups still marginalised and feared in society today.

In Zootopia, predators become judged for their biology, affirmative action schemes arelaughed at, and people in power try their best to separate society based on what individuals might look or talk like. Tackling these problems in an innocent kids film is the perfect cultural antidote to the likes of Trump, spewing his xenophobia from a scarily-high platform.

There's plenty of light in Zootopia to balance out what is essentially a university-level exploration of intersectionality theory. The unbearable sloths of Zootopia provide some of the biggest laughs of the film, as do some cheeky Breaking Bad references for the adults. At surface level it's a light-hearted caper about living your dreams, but there's a reason the film has been condemned by the Chinese army - the deeper meaning is hard to ignore. In terms of hiding a fierce, powerful message under a fluffy visage, Zootopia is a must-see wolf in sheep's clothing.

Screening now
Rated PG

- Spy.co.nz

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