If you don’t remember that there were two movies prior to “Paws Unite!” then I personally don’t blame you. The first two movies basically took a painfully derivative premise and did a pretty okay job creating a talking animals’ action movie for the whole family. The third film in the series that no one asked for, “Paws Unite!” pretty much works as a loose sequel. It’s loose because it’s apparent that the screenwriter never actually saw the original films.
Disney’s newest “Zootopia” is a very heavy and complex movie that can be appreciated by a broader audience. Sure, it has a lot of ideas about heroism, courage, and features a slew of really charming cute animals, but it’s also a tale about prejudice and stereotypes. It’s an inverted exploration of biases and conclusions we draw with others that can be dissected and analyzed by virtually anyone. I don’t think “Zootopia” is about a specific issue in the modern social and political climate, but it does hold an interesting function in helping us to take a second look at racism and the ideas of stereotyping a specific sub-set of individuals and how damaging it can be to us as a society and personally.
Ginnifer Goodwin is fantastic as Judy Hopps, a rabbit who has been told all of her life that she’s incapable of being anything but a farmer. When she beats all the odds and tries for her role as a police officer, she eventually proves everyone wrong and ends up earning a job as an officer in Zootopia. Zootopia is a series of small communities and cities made up animals, most of which are prey. The predators are reserved for more side roles in the society that are influential but not totally intimidating. Judy is underestimated mainly for her size and gender, and is sadly relegated to being a Meter Maid.
After stopping a theft from a local flower shop, she begs her commander Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) for a chance, and volunteers to find a missing Otter. With only forty eight hours given by Bogo, Judy begins cracking the case and blackmails local con artist, Nick Wilde, a sly Fox who may be able to help her. With their uneasy pact, Hopps learns about a grander scheme involving other missing animals, and the unnerving idea that local predators may begin hunting prey and ruining the harmony of Zootopia. Goodwin is charming and fun as heroine Hopps, who manages to disprove a lot of assumptions about her from her department and fox Nick Wilde, who sees her as literally nothing more than a dumb bunny who’s bitten off more than she can chew.
With courage and old fashioned determination, Hoops paves her way in to the annals of Disney heroines with ease. The voice work is fantastic with folks like Idris Elba and JK Simmons lending their voice talents, while Jason Bateman is a wonderful foil to Hopps. With his calm and smug deliver, Bateman turns Wilde in to a complex anti-hero, who garners his own ideas about stereotypes and the often inescapable pigeonholes society can put us in to. Wile just accepts his fate as a lower class predator, while Hopps is eager to prove she’s so much more than prey destined to reproduce and farm. Like the former Disney smash “Frozen,” the writers take its audience seriously and offer complex and very adult overtones that will allow them to give second and third thoughts about what “Zootopia” is trying to convey.
Along the way there are some genuinely funny moments, including the visit to the DMV run by Sloths, the fun jabs at previous Disney films, and shockingly compelling dynamic between Nick and Judy. “Zootopia” is another stellar Disney film that begs for a second look thanks to its evocative overtones and commentary.
The Disney release of “Zootopia” comes with a DVD and Digital Copy alongside the Blu-Ray. Among the features, there’s “Research: A True-Life Adventure,” a ten minute look at how the filmmakers dropped themselves in to the animal kingdom to research wildlife and bring them to life for the film. “The Origin of an Animal Tale” is a nine minute look at filmmakers discussing ideas for the movie during development, along with inspirations, themes, and whatnot.
“Zoology: The Roundtable” is a three part feature clocking in at almost a half hour, covering various facets of the film. There’s “Characters” about the film’s primary characters, “Environments” about the bigger and more minute details that comprise the film, and “Animation” revolving around the film’s fantastic animated sequences. “Scoretopia” is a look at the film’s fun score, “Z.P.D. Forensic Files” is a three minute look a the Disney East Eggs throughout the movie. There’s a music video by Shakira, a look at the characters removed from the final film, and a slew of deleted scenes and an alternate opening with an optional commentary by Byron Howard and Rich Moore.