Zootopia Shows a Lot of ♥ for a Great Detective Story!

7 Mar


By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

Buried in Disney’s Zootopia is plenty of charm. This world is built on trust and Charles Darwin‘s On the Origin of Species. A long, long time ago, the fauna evolved to stand on two legs and develop civilization. Through some means that we are not meant to know, they have become human. Unlike LEGO Legends of Chima, evolution came magically and the legend beasts are those who chose to remain in their primal form. This movie nicely looks at a growing problem in the metropolis: a handful of people are going missing and the reasons why are not clear. This movie is surprising by not putting in an Olivia Flaversham (The Great Mouse Detective) cameo.

Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) is an idealistic bunny who dreams of making a difference. From an early age, she wanted to be a cop. Despite a few difficulties in size and standing out in Police Academy, she manages to be top of her class. By the time she gets her first duty at Zootopia Police Department, she gets assigned meter-maid duty. Police Chief Bogo (Idris Elba), a cape buffalo, does not think she is capable for other work. When a pleading Otter comes knocking at Bogo’s door and Officer Hopps is present to represent the sympathetic arm of the force, he reluctantly allows this rookie to turn detective, or face being fired.

Judy’s enthusiasm is infectious and when she miscalculated what a wily fox, Nick Wilde (an excellently cast Jason Bateman) is up to, just how he gets involved is nothing but shrewdness by Hopp. Although these two have nothing in common, they have to pair up. Even in this world, the fact they were once natural enemies (predator and prey) gets subtly explored in different ways.


Could the reason be a rule of natural selection? In Hopp’s youth, she was bullied by another fox because her species is always regarded as timid. The story hints at where every animal species belong in the food chain. As gruesome as the latter sounds, fortunately this movie does not go down that path. This film is great at showing characters who can become anything they want to be. All they have to do is to put in the effort.

Hopp and Wilde reluctantly work together to find out what’s going on. In their search, they encounter dons, cons, politicians and thieves — just a typical day in the life of both a bunny police officer and street smart fox.


The lion mayor (J.K. Simmons) wants answers to this growing problem and his sheepish assistant (Jenny Slate) does her best to keep up with public inquiries. However, when an altercation leads the pair to an Arctic shrew (wonderfully played by Maurice LaMarche) protected by massive polar bear henchmen, even he does not know what’s happening. Not even the zen yak (Tommy Chong) or the snidely weasel (Alan Tudyk) knows. This movie shows the rabbit and the fox playing the classic board game, Clue. None of the reveals quickly make sense, and even the audience will not get it right away. To engage viewers in this detective drama puts this animation beyond typical kiddie fare.

The movie is nicely paced to show the pair racing against time to find the missing animals. If Judy can not handle the job, she might as well give up. However, she does not. She has to slow down to think the reveals through. This film functions very well as a parable in how to slowly handle situations. The scene in the trailer where she impatiently awaits information from the sloths at the Department of Motor Vehicles is a perfect example. Not only does the species steal the show, they are a highlight. In this film, slow and steady wins the race, and that’s what the best Aesop‘s tale extols.

4½ Stars out of 5

One Response to “Zootopia Shows a Lot of ♥ for a Great Detective Story!”

  1. Alena 2016-08-28 at 12:44 am #

    My daughter of 3 loved it and honestly I didn’t mind watching it with her. the story is good and the characters are funny, what more do you want from a child movie?


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