“Zootopia,” Disney’s 55th animated feature film, has big, cuddly and funny ideas. Sometimes it might seem like they’re at odds, but the filmmakers keep the tone so light and vibrant, everything works.
The computer-generated creatures have smooth and cheerful lines, like old-style “stretch-and-squash” animation. The movie is wonderfully fluid and graceful.
It opens with cute young talking animals putting a stage play, in a world where creatures have evolved. Predator and prey live together in harmony, especially in the big city of Zootopia.
Judy Hops, a cute bunny rabbit (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) wants to be the first rabbit cop there.
Her parents don’t exactly encourage her dream (“the secret of happiness is to give up and settle”), but she tries anyway. She reports for work in the middle of a juicy missing-persons (missing-beasts?) case, but the chief (Idris Elba) assigns her to write parking tickets.
On the job, she is fooled by a sly con artist, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman). When the exasperated chief gives her 48 hours to find one of the missing animals, Judy tricks Nick into helping her.
The disappearances revolve around a series of occurrences in which predators have suddenly gone savage and attacked prey.
The movie turns a bit weighty when the prey residents of Zootopia begin to fear the predators, treating them with hatred and prejudice; it’s a clear parable that won’t be lost on young viewers, and may remind adults of issues swirling around the current presidential campaign.
Also for grownups, “Zootopia” has not-so-subtle references to “The Godfather” and “Breaking Bad,” as well as a brilliant (already previewed) sequence with sloths who work at the DMV. (As a bonus, confessed sloth fan and “Frozen” star Kristen Bell has an uncredited cameo as a sloth.)
Surprisingly, the mystery story is clever and involving, and the developing relationship between Judy and Nick flows with it nicely, albeit with a few hiccups.
Every so often, excellent voicework buoys things: J.K. Simmons as a lion mayor, Tommy Chong as a yak, Octavia Spencer as a sweet otter, and more.
Shakira plays a pop star called Gazelle, whose uplifting song “Try Everything” is cleverly placed throughout the movie and surely will be performed at the Oscars next year. In keeping with that theme, “Zootopia” tries a bit of everything, and largely succeeds.
Starring: Voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons
Written by: Jared Bush, Phil Johnston
Directed by: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush
Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes