Starring: Jason Bateman, Ginnifer Goodwin, Idris Elba
Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore
Self-assured, academically excelling bunny Judy Hopps (Goodwin) is the first rabbit to be made a police officer in the animal city of Zootropolis (or Zootopia if you happen to reside in the US due to a marketing rights issue with a zoo in Denmark). Unsurprisingly, and dare we say predictably, the remainder of the force, made up of the more robust genus of the animal kingdom, refuse to take her seriously due to her species, diminutive stature and the family’s carrot farming background. Hopps initially struggles to prove herself as she is allocated to the demeaning duty of car ticketing, but soon manages to stumble into the investigation of a case involving the mysterious disappearance of several mammals across the city. She subsequently blackmails scheming street wise con-artist fox Nick Wilde (Bateman) into helping her out and together they start to unravel the puzzling vanishings.
The first hour of Zootropolis is genuinely great fun as Wilde and Hopps awkwardly work together, both playing one-upmanship to fulfil their own personal goals. This first act is brilliantly paced and full of fabulously imaginative scenes from Rodentia, a miniature city within a city and home to all the mice, rats and shrews, through to the Automobile Department helpdesk being manned by sloths, poking fun at the inefficiency and bureaucracy of local government agencies.
The plot builds into an interesting conspiracy with all characters seemingly protecting their own self-interests; the autocratic lion mayor and the unmalleable bison police chief (Elba) through to Mr Big, the Don Corleone styled head of mafia vole.
Unfortunately, the bar is now set so high for Disney animation studios after Tangled, Frozen (although any parent would agree that it is almost impossible to be objective about that film six hundred views in) and Big Hero 6 that it is surprising when Zootropolis swiftly and dramatically drops pace and fun around the hour mark, and worse, never fully recovers. The link between the fabulous start and the big finale feels lethargic, strained and in serious need of rework.
The relentless subtext that we can all work together no matter our creed, colour and background also starts to grate. The discriminated suddenly realising they have become the discriminator, how there is always prejudice and bigotry lurking just below the surface in all of us; it is just a little too pressed in the audiences faces, and although it’s all noble stuff it often feels a smidgeon too preachy.
Zootropolis is an enjoyable outing but really lets itself down in the second half and, at almost two hours, may struggle to hold the attention of its younger audience. It’s lovely to look at and the quality of anthropomorphism has definitely increased since the purchase of Pixar. Unfortunately, it feels more Wreck It Ralph than Big Hero 6 but it does include Shakira as a singing gazelle.
6 / 10