Disney Animation, which recently turned out critical and commercial hits like Frozen and Big Hero 6, has returned to the animal kingdom for its latest feature. But viewers can expect a much different world in Zootopia than they found at Pride Rock or Atlantica. Zootopia is a sprawling city where talking, walking animals live their lives as humans would, and its populated with all the usual suspects of human society, from police officers to politicians to DMV agents. And the newest cop in town, a bunny named Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), is looking to prove herself as the force’s first-ever rabbit officer.
To show she can do more than parking duty, Judy has to team up with the conniving fox, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), in order to solve a number of missing animals cases. Along the way, they run into numerous famous actors putting their pawprint on a host of different animal characters, including Idris Elba as Judy’s chief, Bogo, J.K. Simmons as the town’s lionhearted mayor, Leodore, and Octavia Spencer as Mrs. Otter.
But is Disney’s latest 3-D animated adventure a worthy follow-up to its recent string of hits, or a mismatched buddy cop comedy that focuses too much on animal puns and not enough on its message?
In his B review of the film, EW’s Chris Nashawaty says that “If you’re the kind of moviegoer who approaches animated kiddie films searching for deep socio-political metaphors, Disney’s Zootopia will provide plenty of food for thought regarding prejudice and tolerance. If, on the other hand, it’s just some zany slapstick, zippy one-liners, and mild chuckles you’re after, you’ll walk out a much happier bunny.”
For more from Nashawaty’s review, along with different takes on the film from critics around the country, read on.
Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)
“Zootopia delivers the genre’s requisite barrage of quick-hit puns and pop culture riffs (a rat mobster modeled on Don Corleone), but the funniest moment comes when Judy goes to the Department of Motor Vehicles to run a license plate and gets her patience tested by a sleepy, slow-as-molasses sloth slumped behind the desk (Raymond S. Persi). Zootopia’s message of tolerance is a noble one. But it’s loopy moments like that that give this modest film its magic.”
Michael Rechtshaffen (Hollywood Reporter) ▲
“Visually, the Zootopia canvas pops — with or without the 3-D glasses — thanks to a gorgeously vibrant color palette and whimsical architectural scales orchestrated by production designer David Goetz. His work is in keeping with an all-mammal parallel universe comprised of distinct microclimates like sunny Bunnyburrow, icy Tundratown and self-explanatory Little Rodentia.”
Neil Genzlinger (New York Times) ▲
“If you’ve seen the trailer for this delightful movie, you’ve already had a taste of what might be the greatest takedown of bureaucratic ineptitude ever filmed. It involves a trip by Judy and Nick to the Department of Motor Vehicles, with its all-sloth staff. In the context of children’s movies, it’s a fairly daring scene, since in an otherwise fast-moving story the joke takes aloooong time to roll out. But it sure is worth it.”
Jesse Hassenger (The A.V. Club)
“Where Zootopia surpasses Big Hero 6, and any number of entertaining second-tier studio cartoons, is the way it ties a typical kid-movie message about believing in yourself — Zootopia is a place where “anyone can be anything” — to the real-world obstacles that can prevent self-confidence from prevailing on its own. By investigating the mechanics of long-held cartoon assumptions (both about the harmoniousness of some cartoon animals, and the characteristics of others), Disney is encouraging viewers young and old to see the world differently and more thoughtfully. It turns out slyness isn’t just a fox thing.”
Brian Truitt (USA Today)
“Bateman’s and Goodwin’s voices nicely capture their roles, but it’s the supporting players who often steal the attention. Pint-sized Mr. Big (Maurice LaMarche) is a funny mobster shrew who’s not to be trifled with, the doughnut-loving cheetah cop Clawhauser (Nate Torrence ) is a hoot, Finnick (Tommy “Tiny” Lister) is a little fox whose rumbly voice belies his tiny stature, and the hippie yak Yax (Tommy Chong) runs a “naturalist” commune that freaks Judy out because no one’s wearing pants.”
Richard Roeper (Chicago Sun Times) ▲
“There isn’t a scene in Zootopia that doesn’t crackle with sharp, multi-level dialogue (corny and sweet jokes for the kids, clever inside humor for the adults) and amazingly detailed and gorgeous visuals. Whether it’s Judy hopping around to write 200 parking tickets in record time, Judy’s pursuit of a sneaky weasel of a bandit that leads her to a miniature city teaming with the smallest of rodents, or some fairly dark and scary twists in the plot (Zootopia is a legit PG film and should not be seen by the very young), rarely I have seen an animated film with such a vibrant, rich look.”
Jen Chaney (Washington Post) ▲
“The genius of Zootopia is that it works on two levels: It’s a timely and clever examination of the prejudices endemic to society, and also an entertaining, funny adventure about furry creatures engaged in solving a mystery. The adults in the audience may see connections between Judy’s initial belief that predators are genetically designed to turn savage and the misguided assumptions some human cops make in real life.”
Gary Goldstein (Los Angeles Times) ▲
“Perhaps even more impressive is the artistry employed to create the city of Zootopia itself, with its range of districts — habitats, really — scaled and climate-adjusted to accommodate each area’s distinct residents (Little Rodentia is a hoot). The downtown ‘hub’ is a dazzling combo of Oz and the Las Vegas Strip. Big kudos go to production designer David Goetz for his gorgeous, whimsical, decidedly brainy feat of what-if urban planning.”
Tom Russo (Boston Globe)
“Disney’s latest doesn’t jell quite so successfully, but it’s an agreeable hodgepodge, at least, one that aims to be not just a breezy mystery, but also a race-and-ethnicity fable. And a salute to stick-to-itiveness. And an animated showcase for Jason Bateman’s wryness and Shakira’s hip wiggling. And a window onto a crazily varied (if undercooked) new ’toontown, with neighborhoods that run the ecological gamut. The movie is a zoo, all right — in terms of its conceptual and thematic logistics as much as anything.”
Peter Hartlaub (San Francisco Chronicle)
“Although the plot moves quickly — with some intense scenes that might frighten younger children — the narrative grows stagnant in the middle parts. The hand-wringing of Judy Hopps becomes very repetitive, and the inevitable conflict between Hopps and Wilde feels as forced as a bad sitcom misunderstanding. Maybe Zootopia needed another rewrite — or maybe it had a few too many. (Eight different people received a story credit on the film.) The ending is excellent, with a race to end the discrimination between animals that seems almost eerily timed.”
Peter Debruge (Variety)
“The deeper they go, the more Zootopia comes to resemble such vintage noirs as Chinatown and L.A. Confidential, from its increasingly shadowy look to Michael Giacchino’s jazzy lounge-music score. Disney has been down this road before with Who Framed Roger Rabbit, although this time, there’s not a single human character to be found, while the adult-skewing jokes (mostly references to other movies) aren’t nearly so inappropriate for kids.”
Overall Metacritic rating: 81
Rotten Tomatoes percent: 99 percent
Length: 108 minutes
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Tommy Chong, Octavia Spencer
Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush
Distributor: Walt Disnet Studios