The Excellent ‘Zootopia’ is an Unexpectedly Topical and Honest Kick to the Head

In a world where animals live in relative harmony with each other, a young bunny named Judy Hopps goes to the big city of Zootopia to become a police officer and soon stumbles into a case involving missing persons and a strange plot to shake this animal utopia to its core.

All right… I’ve officially seen everything. I have just watched an animated animal populated buddy cop movie involving, among other things, racism, nudity, and drugs. Disney has really gone off the monorails with this one and the result is a gloriously subversive movie the likes of which we haven’t seen since Paranorman. This movie is so well-written, that you don’t even realize what you’re watching until it’s almost over and, even then, you still don’t know what the allegory is that they’re going for until it slaps you in the face like a fish.

Zootopia is the United States. The predators are minorities: Be they demonized Mexicans or Serbian refugees or scary Islamic people. It’s rare that you see an animated movie literally ripped from today’s headlines and I’m not sure if it was a prophetic eye or just dumb luck on Disney’s part that divined this movie come out in the middle of Donald Trump’s ridiculous rise to power, but this is probably one of the most topical films to come out in a long time and definitely one of the most damning of our paranoid society.

Come on! They even say, “Hey, we outnumber them ten to one!” It might have well have been a toothless inbred yokel at a tea party rally with a misspelled protest sign.

Therein lies the genius of Zootopia. It’s both comedy and commentary, but manages to be both without coming off as preachy and superior. It has fun telling its story, it has fun with its characters, and makes such a subtle statement about race relations (or is that species relations) that it almost flies by without notice.

I suppose what makes Zootopia so successful at this preachless preaching is that our two main characters, Judy and Nick, are guilty of racial profiling as well. Judy, for example, calls Nick “articulate” for a fox and chides him for calling her “cute” because it’s okay for bunnies to call each other cute, but the other animals can’t use it. Cute is the rabbit’s n-bomb.

This is an extremely well-done movie. Masterfully animated, wonderfully acted, and written entertainingly. Zootopia is a world in of itself and, to be honest, I could have just watched a movie that did nothing but explore that clever world and been happy. Well, not happy… distracted maybe? It would have been a weird movie.

Zootopia is a masterwork. A come out of nowhere kick to the head disguised as a cutesy talking animal movie when, as a matter of fact, it’s risky, it’s topical, and handles the controversy well. This is a laudable effort and Disney should be congratulated for it. It would be so easy to settle on cute and easy… But they pushed it and made Zootopia a true product of our age: wrinkles and all.

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