It's a brave move to make a kids film where there is a montage of the do-gooder main character dishing out 200 parking tickets. Zootropolis could have done without this scene, but impressively it manages to make its leading bunny likeable, no matter how many other Zootropolis-dwelling animals’ days she ruins by slapping them with a fine.
Judy Hops (Ginnifer Goodwin) is the bunny tasked with parking duty, after she works her fluffy little tail off to get out of her small town, get herself through police academy and finally live her dream of tackling crime in the big city of Zootropolis. Judy is a dreamer, determined to leave her carrot-farming folks behind and be the first ever bunny police officer. But life in the city isn't quite how Judy imagined it would be, and she is forced to team up with streetwise hustler fox, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), to unravel the mystery of some missing mammals.
Judy's journey from small-town girl with big dreams to city-hardened detective is packed with enthusiasm. She could be an annoyingly optimistic one-note character, if she wasn't constantly being put down by others from her own well-meaning parents to her new boss, Chief Bojo (Idris Elba). Sly fox Nick Wilde makes a good foil, but it's yet another role where Jason Bateman doesn't get to show how good he can be.
The city itself is filled with potential, a wonderland of different climates and different sized sectors to cater for its wildly varied population. Judy and Nick's investigation takes them through TundraTown and into the territory of Godfather-riffing rodents, through tropical rainforests and swinging through vines, to one chase through a mini-street filled with hamster tubes. If Zootropolis were an animal-populated Grand Theft Auto style video game, you could have a bloody field day.
It's a shame Shakira has to be crowbarred in as a dancing pop queen who warbles the same song on the soundtrack, not once but twice. It's as if Disney are concerned that they're not going to make enough money by selling merchandise with cute animals all over it already. But the animation is impressively cute, with Judy's emotions shining through particularly clearly, thanks to Goodwin’s voice work, but also through the character design and animated performance.
The central mystery that Judy is eventually given 48 hours to solve has a few too many twists and turns, and though it's got some neat surprises, it overstays its welcome and may well test a few kiddies' patience. Zootropolis is at its best when exploring the wonderfully realised world of the film, as well as with its jokes about rabbits and reproduction that litter the script. The Breaking Bad and Frozen references might make it date quickly, but a film with Shakira on the soundtrack clearly isn't too worried about that.
In tackling the differences between rural and urban life, civilisation and savagery, Zootropolis goes to some vaguely dark places. While some of the more adult gags and references will go over children's heads, the message about the selling of fear through perpetuating negative stereotypes might just stick. A wild ride with some noir-ish undertones, Zootropolis packs in plenty to keep the whole family entertained.
ZOOTROPOLIS / CERT: PG / DIRECTORS: BYRON HOWARD, RICH MOORE, JARED BUSH / SCREENPLAY: JARED BUSH, PHIL JOHNSON / STARRING: GINNIFER GOODWIN, JASON BATEMAN, IDRIS ELBA, SHAKIRA, J.K. SIMMONS / RELEASE DATE: 25TH MARCH
Expected Rating: 5