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ZOOTOPIA

SYNOPSIS: In Zootopia, a city of anthropomorphic animals, rookie bunny cop Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) and a cynical con artist fox, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) must work together to uncover a conspiracy.

Review by Louise Keller
A story about pursuing dreams may not sound new, but Zootopia's delightful animated film about predators and prey living together in harmony is an original. A bunny cop with conflict management skills and a fox who hustles are the two central characters; they are surrounded by the likes of a cape buffalo police chief, a lion mayor, his woolly deputy, a missing otter, a lovable sloth, polar bears, giraffes, elephants, rodents and more.

Anyone can be anything, says Ginnifer Goodwin's Judy Hopps, the strong-willed, determined rabbit with floppy ears and 273 brothers and sisters, who has always aspired to be a bunny cop. When Judy heads to Zootopia, leaving her carrot-farmer parents behind, she is carrying a suitcase decorated with carrots, as well as her hopes to 'make the world a better place'. When Judy meets the wily fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), she learns the art of the hustle - initially to her detriment, but soon takes it into her arsenal. Judy's initiation into the police force - as Zootopia's first ever bunny cop - is far from smooth, being relegated to traffic cop instead of her dream to join the other rhinos, hippos and he-man members of the police force to search for the 14 missing mammals.

Much of the film is about the relationship between Judy and Nick - as they learn to trust each other, when they jointly set out to find a missing otter - with no leads or witnesses. I love all the little throwaways that the film does so well - like the iphone with a carrot icon, the carrot pen doubling as a recorder and the songs (I'm a loser; All By Myself) that play on the radio when she comes back to her modest digs after her first disastrous day at work. Watch out for glamorous Gazelle the popstar, with lurex-wearing tiger go-go dancers. Especially wonderful are the scenes involving a bureaucratic sloth who does everything in slow-motion, the much feared 'Godfather' Mr Big and the visit to the Mystic Spring Oasis where the (otherwise clothed) animals do yoga a la naturel (The elephant performing inverted splits is hilarious).

The plot takes several twists and turns as the relationships between predators and preys sit in the balance, giving the narrative all the elements of a mystery thriller with buddy-movie elements. Goodwin and Bateman bring Judy and Nick to life and Idris Elba as the gruff police chief with the Jason Stratham accent. It's a gorgeous film beautifully executed with a story that will have you smiling throughout. Don't miss it!

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's a bunny movie ... sorry, a buddy movie ... in family-fun land, where the rookie cop (a bunny) has to team up with a small-time crim (a fox) to track down bigger crooks. Anthropomorphic as it is, there is plenty of innocent fun, and a large slab of somewhat mangled messages about diversity, tolerance and ... er... human decency. I rather wish the filmmakers hadn't tried quite so hard to stuff quite so much of that messaging into the screenplay, which in the final few minutes plays like a sermon from PC Central.

That aside, the film offers us a chance to unhook our adult assumptions about character by replacing the protagonists with animals. Hence the rookie cop is a bunny (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin in suitably feisty fashion), so reducing the sexualisation of the character; likewise dashing larrikin Nick Wilde (voiced with devilish charm by Jason Bateman).

Although no less than10 writers are credited with the story work, the screenplay (by two of them) is efficient and the story is smoothly told, with its key dramatic twist built around what are called 'night howlers'. (Watch and learn.)

The animation gives us wonderfully entertaining characters to look at, not least Police Chief Bogo (Idris Elba's voice), Assistant Mayor Bellwether (Jenny Slate) and Mr. Big (Maurice LaMarche) channelling Marlon Brando's Don Corleone in the film's most audacious element. Notworthy, too, is overweight, donut-addicted police station front desk officer Clawhauser (Nate Torrence).

If we ignore the annoying and perniciously misleading proposition 'anyone can be anything' message, the film offers plenty of entertainment value - including some wonderful details and throw-aways.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

ZOOTOPIA (PG)
(US, 2016)

VOICES: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Tommy Chong, J. K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk, Shakira

PRODUCER: Clark Spencer

DIRECTOR: Byron Howard, Rich Moore

SCRIPT: Jared Bush, Phil Johnston

CINEMATOGRAPHER: (animation)

EDITOR: Jeremy Milton, Fabienne Rawley

MUSIC: Michael Giaccino

PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Goetz

RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 17, 2016







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