I know, that title seems a little out there. But stay with me.
The marketing campaign makes the movie look like your average talking animal movie for children. But word of mouth ultimately led me to seeing this movie. (99% on Rotten Tomatoes!!!) I’ll admit, when I first left the theater almost a week ago, I didn’t think much of the film.
But something lingered. Almost a haunting presence.
Because this film is not actually about talking animals running around and being cute. No, this film is an allegory, not unlike George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Both stories use talking animals to reveal something startling about humanity.
Let me start out by saying that the film has problems. There are a number of jokes that don’t work. There’s one scene in particular that parodies The Godfather that goes on for too long and had very little impact on the plot. The plot itself feels a little ‘by the numbers’ and I’m not a big fan of a certain twist near the end.
And yet, despite all of that, I am still going to give Zootopia five stars.
Is Zootopia a perfect film? No. But… is it a good film, an important film, and a film that everyone needs to see? Yes.
I almost feel like this film is made more for adults than for children. Young kids will probably like this movie just fine, but they probably won’t ‘get it’. But I still think it is good for children to see this, as it might have an impact on how they see the world when they grow up.
When you start comparing it to more ‘adult’ movies about prejudice, this one doesn’t seem to be talking down to kids. Ironically, the Disney movie with talking animals is more honest and real than a ton of ‘serious’ movies about racism.
First of all, the majority of Oscar-bait movies about racism are period pieces, like 12 Years A Slave, The Help, & Selma. And while all three are good films, the fact that they all take place in the past seem to send a subliminal message, like ‘We were really racist in the past but we’re not anymore.’
On top of that, a lot of movies paint it in a very black and white way. ‘All black people are good and all white people are mean.’ One of the best things about Zootopia is that there is no perfect character. Everyone in the film is at least a little bit prejudiced. Which, sadly, is kind of the way it works in real life.
While the movie does have a lot of very typical cliches that you might suspect from Disney, the film’s hard-pressing allegory is what makes it stand out. Even at the very end. On the surface, it’s your basic Disney happy ending. But they don’t go the route of ‘Well, everything’s perfect now and there’s no more racism.’ Because the simple truth is, you can’t get rid of racism overnight.
As you would expect from Disney animation, Zootopia has fantastic animation and sound design. And the world-building is pretty darn incredible, making Zootopia feel like a real place that you want to see more of. It also includes great vocal work from Ginnifer Goodwin that could rival Amy Poehler in Inside Out. It can’t be easy to balance out being a tough, no-nonsense cop while also remaining completely likable.
Regarding my early statement about this film’s Oscar chances, I seriously think this film could get a Best Picture nomination. The Academy loves to nominate ‘important’ movies, and very few animated movies are as ‘important’ as Zootopia. Even the film’s early release date could be an advantage, as people will remember it throughout the year, much like The Grand Budapest Hotel. And trust me, people will remember this film.