Animal Instincts

In the days leading up to seeing the new Disney animated movie Zootopia, I found myself sheepishly (no pun intended) admitting to people that I wasn't attending with any actual children, but was in fact seeing it as a group of four fully-grown dudes. I feel better now, though, because this may be the least kid-focused kids' movie I've seen in a long time. Sure, there are the usual kid-friendly messages like "Be Yourself" and "Don't Leap to Judgement", but the main thrust of the movie seems to be a warning about committing racial micro-aggressions, which is not what you'd usually see in a fun popcorn flick about talking animals.

Zootopia tells the story of Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), a rabbit from a farm community who wants to be the first bunny cop in the bustling city of Zootopia. Once she gets through her academy training, though, she learns that her chief (Idris Elba) sees her as nothing more than a token member of force, good only for handing out parking violations. When Judy puts her career on the line to solve a series of disappearances, she blackmails a reluctant fox conman (Jason Bateman) into assisting her.

That's only the overarching plot, though. Like I said, Zootopia has a lot more on its mind than just being a generic cop buddy comedy for kids. It wants very much for you to understand the injustices that led to organizations such as Black Lives Matter being founded.

The Zootopia community is integrated, but its members are part of either the "predator" animal group or the "prey" group. Though the prey comprises the vast majority, they are given to fear the predators, worrying that their biological impulses will lead them to commit acts of violence against the prey. When a couple of predators do, indeed, strike at the community for an unexplained reason, the entire predator community becomes untrustworthy in the eyes of the greater populace. Sound familiar?

Though the message isn't subtle (there's even a scene where animals touch and carress a sheep's hair without permission because it's so strange and fascinating to them), Zootopia never forgets that it's a comedy. A scene in a DMV office staffed entirely by sloths had my entire theater's audience cackling out loud, me included.

Compared to a lot of outstanding recent Disney movies like Wreck-It Ralph, Zootopia doesn't quite stack up. But for a fun evening at the movies, you could do a lot worse. And maybe even leave learning a thing or two about society.

Zootopia: B


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