On the cover, Zootopia may appear to be a lazy play of words, a rehashed cobbling of a buddy cop story with added anthropomorphic animals; all the makings of an average film. In reality, it is all that along with an intelligently written satire with pop culture references that keeps both the kids and grownups engaged throughout the film.
Judy is a recent police academy graduate who teams with con-artist Nick, to solve a missing persons case in the city of Zootopia. This takes the duo through various parts of the city and has them encounter a number of different characters, inspired from countless other popular franchises.
The story is a refreshing one without going too far from the common monomyth that we all know and love. As a result the movie may look like it is meant specifically for kids, but it is also a thoughtful watch for those guardians who have to bear accompanying the kids to the cinema. It can also be classified as a piece of cultural satire that constantly pokes fun at the problems of society in general.
Is it just me, or do animated films tend to have a higher than average count of pop culture references?
The satire is not too complex, but it is consistent enough that it feels organic to the plot and not forced for the sake of it. It is effortlessly veiled because of the complete absence of human characters in the movie and this also allows it the virtue of being free from censorship.
The movie provides a good opportunity for early adolescents to explore abstract (but important) concepts like slavery, racism, politics, drug abuse etc. by providing a concrete example to start from.
The movie also makes excellent use of situational comedy, puns, cultural references and other comic devices that the audience has come to expect of computer animated comedies.
To be nitpicky, I was a bit annoyed at the expediant role of Judy’s reasoning behind the predator behaviour. Even though Nick’s response to her comments may be justified, and it moves the plot ahead, it did not feel right. I suppose there was no organic and brief way to come up with a reason for a gap between the duo.
Other than the plot of the movie, there doesnt seem to be any other real problem affecting the city. This is something that is really unlikely to happen if the city had existed for real.
I’d love to a see a sequel or spin off of some sort where the citizens of Zootopia try to deal with climate change specifically.