It’s like New York or L.A., except the animals here aren’t as savage. Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba and Academy Award winner J. K. Simmons lend their voices to Zootopia.

ZootopiaCast of Characters:
Officer Judy Hopps – voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin
Nicholas P. Wilde – voiced by Jason Bateman
Chief Bogo – voiced by Idris Elba
Dawn Bellwether – voiced by Jenny Slate
Officer Benjamin Clawhauser – voiced by Nate Torrence
Bonnie Hopps – voiced by Bonnie Hunt
Stu Hopps – voiced by Don Lake
Yax – voiced by Tommy Chong
Leodore Lionheart – voiced by J. K. Simmons
Mrs. Otterton – voiced by Octavia Spencer
Duke Weaselton – voiced by Alan Tudyk

Director – Byron Howard & Rich Moore
Screenplay – Jared Bush & Phil Johnston
Producer – Clark Spencer
Rated PG for some thematic elements, rude humor and action

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In Zootopia, a world populated by mammals, Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) dreams of serving her city as the first rabbit police officer. However, she faces one problem – she’s a rabbit. Despite graduating from the police academy as valedictorian and having an infectious go get ’em attitude, Judy’s relegated to parking duty by Bogo (voiced by Idris Elba), her intimidating chief who doubts her potential.

Regardless of her superior’s lack of faith in her, an opportunity for Judy to prove herself arises after a mishap with a mischievous fox named Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman) leads to her being given an assignment to investigate the disappearance of Mrs. Otterton’s (voiced by Octavia Spencer) husband, and Nick may or may not know of his whereabouts. The plot thickens when that disappearance leads to a string of many other disappearances, and with very little time given time her from Chief Bogo, Judy must uncover the truth to this mystery.

For the past two decades, Pixar has been ruling the animated roost once conquered by all those Disney musical greats. Of course, technically, Disney owns Pixar (like they own pretty much everything else in the universe), but Disney’s own animated efforts haven’t been up to par since The Lion King.

Yes, Mulan fans, sue me for thinking that film is overrated.

Then Wreck-It Ralph came along and righted Mickey’s ship, followed by Frozen and Big Hero 6. Despite two lackluster offerings in Planes and its even more lackluster sequel Planes: Fire and Rescue, non-Pixar Disney is back and rolling, and its newest feature Zootopia helps reestablish its standing as the animated giant it once was.

Of course, let’s be honest, Zootopia didn’t need to do much to wow viewers. Its most recent competition this year was January’s Norm of the North. Disney could’ve farted out poop and boob jokes for 90 minutes and it still would have the upper hand against Lionsgate’s colossal failure.

Thankfully, Disney doesn’t settle for just being better than January’s animated turd, and instead gives us one of the most creative films of the year, one that not only works as a great animated film, it also works as a buddy cop adventure that’s a hundred times funnier and more thrilling than Ride Along 2Zootopia could’ve skated by on its humor alone, a pleasant blend of zany gags for the kids and sharp, witty references for their parents, but directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore and their brilliant team of animators go above and beyond with their beautiful, fully realized world of Zootopia. From Bunny Borough and Sahara Square to Tundra Town and the title metropolis, Howard and Moore place front and center on a tour of one of the most vibrant, colorful and richly designed worlds in animated film.

Even better, what’s onscreen is a visual treat enough, yet even though we’re still given plenty of detail and insight into Zootopia, there still appears to be plenty more within this world that could be explored in future films.

As already mentioned, Zootopia is far from short on humor. Featuring a variety of jokes that is sure to please viewers of all ages (viewers my age and older will certainly get a kick out of a hysterical reference to The Godfather), Jared Bush and Phil Johnston’s script is filled to the brim with joke after joke that fire away one after the after at pleasant place. Along with the jokes, the film also provides the youngsters with genuine, unforced lessons on prejudice (specifically, the differences between the predators and non-predators) that fit just fine within the story.

The voice-work here is spot-on. Be it larger, more substantial characters voiced by the invaluable actors Idris Elba as the imposing Chief Bogo and J. K. Simmons as the gruff Mayor Lionheart, or smaller yet strong turns from Bonnie Hunt, Octavia Spencer, Tommy Chong and Disney Animation regular Alan Tudyk (voicing a weasely character whose name’s a reference to the character he voiced in Frozen), all bring their A-game in giving life to each and every one of these characters.

And then there’s Jason Bateman and Ginnifer Goodwin, both of whom are pitch-perfect as Judy Hopps, the eager, go-get-em rabbit cop with the purest of hearts, and Nick Wilde, the town’s sly, shady fox who may or may not have shades of good hiding deep within him. Bateman is always a perfect choice for dry, cynical comic deliveries and slips into the character of Nick Wilde effortlessly. Goodwin gives life, heart and wit to the upbeat Judy. Her perpetually optimistic demeanor never once hits a false heart and is so appealing it could easily melt even the hardest cynic’s heart.

Even though we never see Bateman and Goodwin together onscreen, their fantastic chemistry together clicks from the moment their characters first meet.

Wonderfully imaginative and beautifully animated, Zootopia is brought to vivid life by a great voice cast and a story that ably blends a hearty dose of hysterical humor and a message that’s thoughtful without being preachy. With Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen and Big Hero 6 already under its belt, the House of Mouse’s fourth non-Pixar animated feature in four years gives Mickey and Co. another strong, universally appealing effort that sits in great company with its rival sibling’s offerings. This is certainly one of the best films this year so far.

I give Zootopia an A (★★★½).

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