–by Cecily Knobler, Hollywood Reporter
Starring the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman and Idris Elba
When I was reminded in the press invitation that this was Disney (NOT Pixar, which Disney tragically bought in 2006,) I grew concerned. Sure they’ve made some great animated films through the years. They even proved they could modernize with the girl-empowering Frozen, a movie that gave us wonderful female characters and the song “Let it Go”, which of course we will never be able to do. But still, it’s not on that elevated Pixar level that brought us my personal favorites Up and Wall-E.
But boy was I pleasantly surprised! Explaining the plot of Zootopia won’t do it justice. A bunny named Judy has dreams of becoming a cop, so she moves to Zootopia (a NYC for animals of all types) and there she learns her preconceived notions about “others” don’t match with her reality. There are foxes and blueberries and techno-blasting neighbors and crimes to solve. (I’m purposely being vague to avoid spoilers.) There is a sweet simplicity to the story, and a sophisticated, good-natured humor that had me laughing audibly every 30 seconds. (Note: I refuse to write the words “laugh out loud” even when I do!) I related to this little bunny and admired her tenacity.
The script, the pacing, all of it worked. But the most impressive element here was the cast. Ginnifer Goodwin, whose voice is so pleasant but authoritative, was perfect as the hoppy (pun intended) protagonist. Jason Bateman as the sly and often hilarious fox has perfect timing. Idris Elba as the chief of police was brilliant. We even get a little Tommy Chong moment, as he voices the Yoga-loving hippie, nudist yak. (You read that right!)
With all the pop-culture references, the film never loses its message or its focus. It’s just one absolutely delightful, adorable scene after another. And what really stood out is the kids (who ranged in age from baby to late teen) in the pre-screening laughed just as uproariously as the adults, albeit for different reasons. There is an option to see the film in 3D, although I saw it in 2D and actually recommend it that way. (I fear the 3D glasses would dull the beautiful and bright animation. Plus that device is just unnecessary for a movie this fun.)
I went into this early-morning screening in an icky, coffee-less mood and came out genuinely joyful. I strongly recommend it, whether you have kids to take to it or not! A.