If you had told me that a movie starring a bunny and a fox could be an astute commentary on stereotypes and prejudice…well I probably wouldn’t have believed you. But that was before I saw Zootopia, the latest film from Disney Animation. By creating a world inhabited entirely by mammals, directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore have held up a mirror to some of the problems that plague our society. That’s more than would normally be expected from a children’s movie, but it also doesn’t hurt that the film is well-paced and a lot of fun. It sets the bar quite high for any other upcoming animated movies in 2016.

Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) has always wanted to become a police officer. But from a very young age, she was told that it would be impossible. You see, a rabbit had never become a law enforcement official, so you can’t totally blame her parents for thinking that this dream wouldn’t come true. But Hopps was able to prove them all wrong, becoming a police officer in the city of Zootopia. Her victory is short-lived, though, because the chief of police (Idris Elba) gives her the menial task of writing parking tickets. This is disconcerting to Hopps, especially when an increasingly large number of animals are disappearing throughout the city. It takes a chance encounter with a con-artist fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) to put Hopps on the right course to solve this mystery.

Most of the racial subtext will probably go over kids’ heads, but the film does a good job of communicating the idea that we should be accepting of everyone and not judge people based solely on their appearance. Hopps is mocked for wanting to be a police officer, but she proves everybody wrong. And even though her parents are deathly afraid of foxes, she eventually befriends one and discovers that they’re more complex than the stereotypes that she’s been told. As the film progresses, the prey of Zootopia begin to unfairly judge the predators as nothing more than savage beasts. Even though the predators in Zootopia are mostly harmless, this is somewhat of a contradicting message; in the actual animal kingdom, these prey would have good reason to fear the predators. But this lapse in logic is minor in the grand scheme of things, particularly when it reinforces a message that is so timely in our society.

Even if you take out the social commentary, this is still a bright, colorful trip into a unique and interesting world. It’s certainly not as funny as it could probably be, but a sequence involving a group of sloths working at the DMV gets big laughs. The story is ultimately pretty predictable and there are a few instances of obvious humor, but adults will get a kick out of the various references hidden throughout the film, ranging from Breaking Bad to Mission Impossible to The Lost World (ok, that last one might be a stretch). The entire cast also delivers solid voice performances, fully embodying their characters and shedding the persona that typically accompanies their well-known voices. Zootopia may not be perfect, but it’s definitely a city that I wouldn’t mind visiting again.

Zootopia receives 3/4

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