I guess it’s easy to say that I’ve found a way to get kids to come to appreciate film-noir when they get old enough in Zootopia. Disney’s own love letter to classic film-noir might probably be the best animated film to have been offered by them in recent years, one film that certainly came out of nowhere for I expected nothing more than cutesy fun at least from the look of the ads, only to find something touching more to my sensibilities from the noirish atmosphere, to an extent even drawing me back to the work of Raymond Chandler, drawing me to admire what I got even more than what I have presumed.
The structuring of Zootopia was one thing I wouldn’t have thought could be as expertly done as what we’re offered here, for the majority of the running time I felt as if I was being reminded of watching a classic film-noir, namely The Big Sleep, whose complex labyrinthine constitution forms only one of the most hypnotizing films ever made. Most of Zootopia‘s formation is indeed as intricate as the titular city which it presents and that’s where the success of such a film comes out. Like a film-noir, we’re pulled into the maze of the mystery inside of its core and it’s the perfect means to get younger audiences to appreciate such a style at a young age.
Pairing Jason Bateman and Ginnifer Goodwin through voices draws back once again to buddy cop films of the 1980’s, yet these aren’t amongst the only film references present inside of Zootopia, and there’s never that feeling they’re being shoehorned. It’s interesting how Disney goes ahead to use some of these references to their own benefit as a manner of exploring this complicated world which our leads inhabit, whether it comes from something more adult-oriented such as a parody of The Godfather down to bootleg copies of other Disney films. To speak of the chemistry that Officer Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde share with one another, an insurmountable amount of irresistible energy forms and it only helps in creating a driving force for what we have here.
Amongst all the complexities we have presented in Zootopia, a rather obvious metaphor being presented comes from what is perceived as a picture of racism. While it can feel somewhat obvious for some I don’t find that it distracts too much from what’s entertaining about watching Zootopia, for it’s simply just there. At the very least the good majority of what we have distracts enough from the metaphors, but I guess all I can really say is that what we’re presented here is much more subtle than the deeply loathsome Crash. It may not be subtle, but it’s not easy to tackle a topic like this with extreme subtlety, and some films can use its lack of such in order to work as successfully as they do (Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing is one that comes to mind in its anger).
To its very credit, the establishment of Judy Hopps’s character arc is one thing that drew my own attention for it’s the best aspect to what we’re offered in Zootopia. She’s an ambitious figure who is driven by her own idealistic view of society for she aspires to change the world. What she embodies is an ideal in regards to diversity and acceptance being a necessary part to society, yet she’s also given a hardboiled approach when she’s on the job in some manner like a female take on Humphrey Bogart’s role as Philip Marlowe. Hopps serves a good role model for the audience at least in what she aspires to be, and as her arc continues in its formation, some form of cynicism is offered within the veins of the harsh reality which she inhabits.
In spite of all this wonder I surprisingly had found while watching Zootopia, one specific gripe comes in regards to a twist at the very ending which I don’t intend to spoil. The predictability of this one moment almost had me taken out because it’s a trope I’ve seen being played in many Disney films being done to death, and while we have so much offered that overshadows this specific gripe, it’s still worth noting because seeing it played out like this again and again is a bit tiresome. It’s such a shame because we have so much wonder amidst the world of Zootopia and then suddenly a twist regarding its antagonist comes about and just how it plays out felt bothersome.
While forgetting to note the wonderful animation is something that shouldn’t be done while talking about an animated Disney film what’s already said has been said. For the most part, the wonders present amidst the large world of Zootopia should be enough to take in its viewers through its running time. When I’m looking out for more offerings from Disney, I’d want more work much like this, at least away from the musical field. A fun ride for kids but also a noirish gem for the adults, Zootopia presents what Disney can offer at their best especially if there’s a sense to which they’re trying for more, which felt so nice to see here. It’s merely The Big Sleep if it were a Disney film.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Disney.
Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore
Screenplay by Jared Bush, Phil Johnston
Produced by Clark Spencer
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Tommy Chong, J. K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk, Shakira
Release Year: 2016
Running Time: 108 minutes