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Zootropolis Review

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In the mammal city of Zootropolis, rabbit rookie cop Judy Hopps (Goodwin) is forced to team up with fox Nick Wilde (Bateman) when civilised animals start turning savage.

★★★★

On the face of it, Zootropolis sees Walt Disney Animation Studios on safe ground. This is the Disney of Robin Hood and Mickey Mouse — cute, anthropomorphised animals, walking on hind legs, talking up cosy platitudes. A familiar formula ready to delight pre-teens and be packaged for enthusiastic toy merchandisers.

It remains entertaining throughout, testament to its inventiveness - and Pixar’s influence.

But Zootropolis has more in common with Pixar than it first appears. The fictional universe it presents — a human-free world where mammals have evolved into a bustling, civilised society — is vividly realised, richly detailed and very funny.

Our guide through this world is Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin), a bunny cop in a buddy-cop movie, paired with a mismatched partner — a fox. Hopps is very much a Disney heroine for a post-Frozen world — peppy and independently minded. Despite the urges of her carrot-farming parents to give up her dreams, she becomes Zootropolis’ first rabbit police officer. Her partner, Nick Wilde, is a wily hustler played with sarcastic relish by Jason Bateman. In the wild, they’re enemies; here they form an uneasy partnership as they’re both assigned to a missing-animals case.

In the grand tradition of the genre, the mismatched pair gradually learn to get along. What they uncover — a this-goes-all-the way-to-the-top conspiracy — raises questions over what it means to evolve past your biology; in a city where former bestial foes share an uncomfortable truce, it serves as a smart analogy for the debates on immigration that rage in our human world. It’s not a domain into which you often see Disney venture.

Of course, political metaphors will bypass the youngsters and yet the twisty machinations of the noir-lite story sometimes get lost among the furry shenanigans. This means, for adults, the joy is often to be found in the background: beavers as construction workers; sloths working the desks at the Department Of Motor Vehicles; Shakira as a gazelle. But it remains entertaining throughout — a testament to the inventiveness of the on-screen action. And Pixar’s influence.

The latest creative renaissance of the house that Walt built (but Pixar reinvigorated) shows no sign of slowing. An engaging animation for all ages.

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