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“Zootopia” tackles deep issues while funny and heartwarming

ZootopiaThe trailers and promotional material appeared to paint “Zootopia” as this fun, little adventure for kids. Much to my surprise, the themes got deeper and edgier as things went along. Elements of racism, stereotyping and even drugs were present for such a simple family film. However, it didn’t matter if these hot topics where in this because I felt everything was delivered and executed perfectly enough for a fun ride.

When watching this world of a metropolis city for animals, things like “Rocko’s Modern Life,” “Futurama” and even “The Amazing Adventures of Gumball” came to mind for different reasons. “Rocko” showing how absurd and outlandish life can be in the simplest of things. “Futurama” for not being afraid to discuss social issues in a lampoon manner. And “Gumball” because a concept like this can be easily crafted by a kid. Seeing these things blended into a unique, rich and engaging feature was rather amusing to me.

“Zootopia” opens up with a small piece of exposition talking about how things came to be. Thankfully, its done in a manner that catches you off guard while still explaining what kind of word you are in for. Again, the idea of a place inhabited by anthropomorphic animals is nothing new. The way its done here, I feel keeps the originality fresh. Something simple as media manipulation and the whole place falls apart much like our world. And for a family feature to mirror today’s problems is very hard to find. In one scene, a character reflects her current situation as a cop stating “We were supposed to protect.” Perhaps I’m looking too deep in, but this scene sent chills reminding me of how today we are still questioning honesty of an authoritative figure like the police.

videothumbnail_zootopia_officialtrailer_disney_a4d0f4ceSocial issues aside, the main story doesn’t deviate as a rabbit named Judy Hops (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) wants to a police officer in this grand city. We root for her not because of the motive, but how we don’t want to see her give up. Set with an optimistic personality, Judy hopes to make a difference in a world that is cynical and prejudice behind the bright colors. Being the first bunny on a team of cops ranging from wolfs to rhinos, we can already tell the level of difficulty from how everyone around her sees this rabbit by animal kingdom status and not personality.

Opposite to that is a red fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) who is aware of Zootopia’s discrimination to the point he’s against it. Instead of going against the labeling, he’s a victim to acting out as a small-time con man. Despite his negative viewpoint, there is a sense of sympathy sharing the same problem Judy has. Both want to make a difference, but everyone around them views their placement as a predator and prey to the point judgement is made from a simple classification.

When it doesn’t discuss social issues, we get a variety of comedy in many places. Ideal jokes like having sloths run a DMV makes for some great gags. The slow pace of a sloth reflects how irradiated we are with the plodding of an actual DMV. These jokes are not cobbled together randomly and you can feel there is effort behind them. The buddy relationship between Nick and Judy is entertaining as well. Both playing off their sly wits as Nick uses his con skills while Judy keeps firing back in brainy ways that could make Brer Rabbit envious.

Zootopia+godfatherIs “Zootopia” completely perfect? I wouldn’t go that far. There is one minor thing I would have to nitpick about and it involves a key twist. As it turns out, a good bulk of mammals turn up missing but found to be going back to a primal state. A supposed mastermind is behind this and once it gets revealed, the shock sort of wasn’t there. Dare I say this was a twist I did see coming after two key scenes much earlier in the movie. Does it break apart everything that has been crafted and tended to? Absolutely not.

Twist or not, I was highly engaged into Disney’s latest outing and rather surprised by how it never turned away from such hot topic issues. These were elements you would rarely find in any of today’s family features or even hard to talk about. I’m thankful there weren’t watered down or treated in such a juvenile manner. “Zootopia” is probably the first Disney movie in a long time that has me questioning how can one can slyly reference things in today’s society for all audiences. Well, “Planet of the Apes” did that well with having every chimp and gorilla used as a symbol of social class. And yet even as I write this, I’m still blown away by how anyone working on this movie was able to communicate what is wrong in our society for a family-friendly picture. Color me impressed.