3.5/5 aka Zootropolis
dir Byron Howard, Rich Moore
prd Clark Spencer
scr Jared Bush, Phil Johnston
voices Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Tommy Chong, JK Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk, Shakira
release US 4.Mar.16, UK 25.Mar.16
16/US Disney 1h48
Take your time: Judy and Nick

goodwin bateman elba
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Zootopia With a snappy sense of humour and frantic visual energy, this lively animated action-comedy is thoroughly entertaining. It also carries a very strong message, even if the filmmakers couldn't resist overstating it several times. But the characters are strong enough that they make the audience hope that this is a franchise in the making.

As a young bunny, Judy (voiced by Goodwin) dreams of being a big-city cop rather than a carrot farmer like her parents (Hunt and Lake). But even though she graduates top of her class from the police academy, Chief Bogo (Elba) assigns her to traffic duty in the sprawling city of Zootropolis. And it's only a matter of time before she stumbles into a much more interesting case, working with her new sly-fox friend Nick (Bateman). Even though predators and prey are now living in peace, something is sparking that old primal instinct.

The premise offers several big ideas that allow the screenwriters to knowingly comment on the real world with witty observations, most notably the way people tend to live up or down to the expectations placed on them. Along the way there are also pointed nods to subtly ingrained prejudice and the politics of fear. Old stereotypes rear their ugly heads, and Judy and Nick are going to need to trust each other, even if they technically may be biological enemies. And the sloth sequence is pure genius.

The vocal cast has a great time bringing these critters to life, playing up the clever dialog to make the comedy and emotion hit its target. Elba's Bogo is a standout -- a big, blustering buffalo with a hidden soft side. Slate's put-upon assistant mayor is also very funny, as is a family of mafioso rodents. And the animators have a great time adding colourful touches to each character and setting, keeping things in constant motion through the city's jungles, deserts and snowscapes.

So if the plot drags a bit in the final act, the audience won't mind much. And they may also be able to overlook, for now, the fact that the entire movie feels like it was assembled as one gigantic Disney product range, from toys and costumes to potential theme park rides, videogames and sequels. There's even a fiendishly catching song performed by Shakira, who appears as skinky popstar Gazelle. Yes, it's calculated, but it's also a lot of fun.

cert pg themes, violence 20.Mar.16

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