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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Zootopia

June 4th, 2016

Zootopia - Buy from Amazon: Blu-ray Combo Pack or 3D Combo Pack
Video on Demand


Zootopia is slowly making its way to $1 billion worldwide [Copy Ed: It passed $1 billion this weekend], but in the meantime, it arrives on the home market this week. It is one of the biggest hits of the year so far and earned Oscar-worthy reviews. Will my voice be added to choir of praise? Or will I be part of the dissenting minority?

The Movie

We begin with a young Judy Hopps starring in a school play about the olden times, before mammals evolved to co-operate and back when the prey animals had to worry about the predators. But now any mammal can do anything it wants, and what Judy wants to be is a cop. There has never been a bunny cop before, something her mother and father are quick to point out. She's determined to be a cop and even stands up to Gideon, the school bully.

We flash-forward to when Judy is in police camp. Despite being told to quit by her instructor over and over again, Judy not only graduates, but comes top of her class. This is something the mayor of Zootopia, Leodore Lionheart, uses to promote his Mammal Inclusion Initiative. He even assigns her to precinct one. Judy's parents see her off to the big city and give her a care package, which is mostly anti-fox sprays, etc. They are excited for her, but also terrified, hence the fox repellent. Judy is also excited about her first day on the job. There is one cop who is excited to have a bunny co-worker, Benjiman Clawhauser, an overweight cheetah, but her superior, Chief Bogo, thinks she is a token hire and makes her a meter maid. He makes her a meter maid, despite there being a major crime wave involving more than a dozen missing mammals.

At first, Judy tries to be really upbeat about her job. She even finds an opportunity to help the community, when she sees a fox, who we later learn is Nick Wilde, trying to by a Jumbo Pop for his son, Finnick. ... Am I the only one who immediately recognized Finnick as a fennec fox and not a baby fox? (Side note, fennec foxes look adorable and they are technically legal to keep as pets in some places, but they make terrible pets. They are easily stressed and need constant care.) When the elephant who runs the ice cream shop tells Nick to beat it, Judy steps in and tells him about the health code violations and says she will let him off with a warning, if he will sell Nick and his "son" a Jumbo Pop.

This good deed for the day puts Judy in a good mood, until she sees Nick and Finnick melting down the Jumbo Pop. She follows them and learns of their hustle using the Jumbo Pop to make popsicles for gerbils and reselling the sticks as construction material. When Judy confronts Nick, he coolly shows that he's done nothing technically illegal, and then deftly destroys her dreams. It's a real low point.

The next day things pick up, as Judy gets a chance to show off her cop skills in taking down a thief, Duke Weaselton. She gets the bad guy and even saves a shrew in the process. She's a hero... or at least she thinks she is. Chief Bogo doesn't see it that way. He yells at her for not doing the job she was assigned. He's still mad at her when Mrs. Otterton shows up. She's the wife of one of the missing mammals and she asks Bogo to please do more to find him. It is at this point, Judy volunteers to be on the case. Chief Bogo is livid and fires Judy immediately, but before he can, the Assistant Mayor, Bellwether, hears from Mrs. Otterton that Judy is on the case. This is a huge milestone for the Mammal Inclusion Initiative, so Chief Bogo can't fire her, at least not right away. He gives Judy 48 hours to crack the case, or she will resign herself.

The only evidence on the case is the last known photo taken by a security camera. It shows Mr. Otterton eating one of Nick's popsicles. Nick may have been the last person to see Mr. Otterton. Unfortunately, Nick might also be the last person who would want to help Judy. Fortunately, while Nick called Judy a dumb bunny, Judy is anything but dumb and is able to hustle Nick into helping her.

We just got into the main plot, but we've also entered spoiler territory.

The only way Zootopia won't win the Oscar for Best Feature-Length Animated Film is if Finding Dory is as good as Finding Nemo was. I would argue this is the best movie from 2016 that I've seen and I loved Deadpool and while I haven't reviewed it yet, Captain America: Civil War, I thought it was fantastic. This is better.

The film works on a surface level. It works simply as a buddy cop comedy with Judy and Nick starting out as adversaries and learning to work together and become friends. The characters are engaging, the mystery is intriguing, and the humor is spot on, so even without any deeper meaning, this movie would be fantastic. However, the movie does have a deeper meaning, one that I can't get into without spoilers. It turns out that the missing mammals are all predators who have gone wild and reverted to their naturalistic nature. After this happens, they are being captured and hidden, because the government doesn't want the rest of the mammals to find out this is happening, lest Zootopia turn into chaos. This is clearly a metaphor for race relations and even before the big reveal, there are some hints dropped. (At one point, Judy calls Nick "articulate".) This elevates the film from merely an amazing movie that both kids and adults can enjoy to a classic. The Studio took a risk putting in a message like this, because while adding a message to a movie can elevate it above the usual fare, if it is poorly handled, it can destroy a film by making it preachy or worse. That is not a problem here. They took the subject matter and inserted it skillfully and organically into the movie.

On a side note, I love the little touches in the movie, from the obvious size differences between the various species to the jokes no kid is going to get. (The parody of the wedding scene from The Godfather stands out in the latter category.)

One final note, I've heard some people complain about the way they handled the message; however, I think these people were mostly missing the point. Beware, I will be spoiling the ending next... A lot of the complaints talk about the biological differences between predators and prey and how if we were to use this in human society, we would be saying there is one group that is more dangerous and if they were to revert to their natural instincts, they would kill. However, that's not what happens in the movie. In the movie, the predators are not reverting to their true natures. They are being drugged and that's what's causing them to "go savage". And we know from the story Bonnie and Stu told, the drug works on bunnies as well. I think the film made this point well, but perhaps it was too subtle, because more than a few people missed it. Furthermore, I also read complaints that the film dealt with individual bigotry instead of systemic racism, which is true for the most part. However, I don't think it is a fair complaint. It is a movie aimed at kids and individual bigotry is something kids would have an easier time understanding. I've seen other media that gets attacked for being too "intro level" when it comes to the message. I never understood that. You need intro level work for people who haven't been introduced to those concepts yet.

Okay... a final, final note. I saw someone ask what the predators eat. ... Fish. We see in the Tundra zone there is a fishery. We learn in Judy Hopps's school play that the mammals evolved, but they don't mention fish, birds, or reptiles and I was looking for any of them in Zootopia. I didn't see any.

The Extras

There is no audio commentary track on Zootopia, which is disappointing; however, there are lots of featurettes. The first is a ten-minute featurette on the research the filmmakers did before they even started the story. There is also a nine-minute featurette on the origins of the story. And yes, origins needs to be plural there. Zoology: The Roundtables are 18 minutes of roundtables about the characters, the locations, etc. Scoretopia is a five-minute look at the original score. Z.P.D. Forensix Files is a three-minute look at the Easter Eggs in the movie. Up next is a music video for "Try Everything" by Shakira. There are also three minutes of deleted characters and 28 minutes of deleted scenes.

I don't have the 3D Combo Pack to compare. It costs $8 or 40% more than the regular Blu-ray Combo Pack, which is a fair price.

The Verdict

Zootopia is the best movie from 2016 that I've seen / reviewed. It is as simple as that. The only way it doesn't win the Oscar for Best Feature-Length Animated Film is if Finding Dory is better, which is possible. The Blu-ray Combo Pack has over an hour of bonus featurettes, which is more than enough to be Pick of the Week material.

Filed under: Video Review, Deadpool, Zootopia, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Ginnifer Goodwin, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, J.K. Simmons, Nate Torrence, Alan Tudyk, Phil Johnston, Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate, Tommy Lister, Shakira , Della Saba