A Trip to “Zootopia”

Maintaining a creepy mustache is a lifestyle. One of the unfortunate consequences of this lifestyle is being forced to feel awkward whenever you go see a children’s movie, alone, in a dark theatre, filled to the brim with excited youths. “Zootopia” makes almost all of that awkwardness worth the trip.

Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) is an ambitious, young bunny, looking to prove herself as the first rabbit police officer in the bustling metropolis of Zootopia. Seen as little more than meek prey by her coworkers, peers and even her family, she must learn to overcome these prejudices. She must also with Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a cunning fox, to crack an impenetrable case.

From Disney, you’d expect nothing less than top notch animation, and “Zootopia” undoubtedly delivers on that front. The colors are vibrant, playful and inviting, as we move from dense, jungle rainforests, to blisteringly icy tundras, to urban cityscapes. The lighting, especially, is awe-inspiring during Mr. Big’s (Maurice LaMarche) daughter’s wedding. It makes the entire sequence feel ethereal, if not like an altogether blatant homage to “The Godfather.”

The voice acting, too, is excellent. Idris Elba is an intimidating presence as Chief Bogo, and Ginnifer Goodwin is totally endearing and lovable in a role that could have, in lesser hands, devolved into something saccharine and obnoxious. However, the real standout is Jason Bateman, who consistently reminds me how he is one of the most versatile and underrated workhorses in Hollywood. He delivers a brassy, jaded performance, that is somehow imbued with the charisma and charm of a young Robert Redford. Bateman’s Nick Wilde is a total jerk, but goddamn it if I don’t love that jerk.

As it claws tenaciously at greatness, “Zootopia” is tethered to the realm of merely good Disney films by its script. Sure, there are a handful of legitimately funny jokes (and one bizarrely out of place “Breaking Bad” reference) peppered in for some strong laughs, but the plot is generally predictable and sticks to tried and true Disney formula. If that formula were perfectly executed, then all would be forgiven. Unfortunately, sloppy, rushed third act, and an unbearably heavy-handed message that is handled with the nuance and discreteness with which crocodile might attack its prey, really hamper the film. It is almost cringe-inducing at times, yet a slightly longer running time and a little dialogue revision would have done the film a world of good.

Don’t let me scare you off, though. “Zootopia” is a fine film that definitely earns your money. Whether you’re a parent looking for a cheap diversion that’ll entertain you and your kids, or a student looking for a harmless, inoffensive flick to watch after midterms, you could do far worse. Just promise me you won’t go see “Gods of Egypt.”