The Pleasant Surprise of Zootopia

It may be late, but my review of Zootopia is positive on all fronts because of how much I enjoyed the film. I saw Zootopia over the weekend as an afterthought--we were bored, there wasn't anything else worth seeing, and so we figured, why not?

Spoilers ahead, so pause here and come back after you've seen it. And if you want to wait for the Blu-Ray or the on-demand version, go ahead. You won't be disappointed.

Zootopia is a Disney animated feature that picks up where almost no other Disney films leave off--with a hint of darkness and a tinge of the hopeless. It's not a bouncy, thoughtless romp through nonsensical product placement gags and Baby Boomer satire gags (although putting Tommy Chong in the film is as counter-culture as you can get without completely blowing minds and trampling through the fields of nostalgia). It's not fall down funny but it's amusing enough to see again.

And that's what I really liked about the film--it lived in its own world and didn't try too hard. It didn't go for the fart and gross-out jokes. No one sucked on a urinal cake. No one's ass explodes in a brown cloud of doom. There is a sick burn that weaves through the story line--it's called a hustle--and it works on a number of levels. It may be one of the first animated comedies that truly steps away from Baby Boomer humor and leaves the Simpsons era behind. That may explain why I liked it so much.

Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman have great chemistry as the leads in this. She plays an idealist and he plays an anti-hero and their collective backstory informs the plot without overwhelming anything. This did not play like an attempt for an actor to play something in a movie that their kids can see--the casting works out in the long run because of the banter they have and the conclusion to the film, which has a moment that is noticeably scarier--and more honest--than the usual Disney fare. 

Where does it fit in? Well, this was a smart film with some hard edges. I would put Zootopia just below The Princess and the Frog and Tangled, but that's very good company. I would say it's as good as Brave without the hard to parse accents. And Brave was a very, very good film that has been overlooked. These four animated films represent the best of the films that are not quite as good as Frozen, and if you haven't seen any of them, they're a pleasant discovery for anyone who enjoys animated films. This film was much, much better than Kung Fu Panda 3 and I preferred it to Inside Out (which I did not care for, but that means I'm merely an idiot, of course).

Really, this wasn't junk. We've seen a slew of junk animated films over the last few years and a handful of really strange and densely plotted things that should never have been made. This was a near murder mystery with more emphasis on the mystery aspect. There's even a twist at the end that works. How often can you say that?