Animals have been used as allegories for the human condition for many years in literature and film (George Orwell's Animal Farm a prime example). Disney's latest offering, Zootopia, makes social commentary on the dangers of racial and gender stereotypes wrapped up in a fun buddy-cop adventure.
Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), the daughter of carrot farmers from the countryside, is the film's heroine. Wide-eyed and charged with unbridled optimism, Judy works her way to become the first bunny cop in the Zootopia police force. Relegated to parking duty on her first day in the city, she takes it upon herself to solve a missing persons case with the help of a fox, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman).
While heavy-handed at times with its social commentary, Zootopia sends an important message about accepting each other's differences while being laugh-out-loud funny the whole way through. The voice acting is superb throughout and there are some real jarring and serious moments that put the characters in peril. The audience is completely invested from beginning to end.
The main fault with the film is unfortunately what it builds its story around – stereotypes. It's admittedly really tough to make a comedy without making jokes at the expense of stereotypes, but that is what Zootopia falls back on all too often, especially considering its progressive outlook. Because of this, the film's message is a paradox, presenting stereotypes in a negative way, yet exploiting them for laughs. It's also interesting to note the positions of power that the "predators" hold in the film. It's clear that the filmmakers were using their own bias in making creative decisions when it came to their characters.
It also does not take a clear stance on the idea of utopia, and by the end, claims that society at large is in a constant state of flux, but that we should remain optimistic about utopia becoming a reality. It does get one thing right, in that any form of societal change starts on a personal level.
It's philosophical faults aside, Zootopia is a milestone achievement in animation, is endlessly entertaining, and will be enjoyed equally by kids and adults. It is action packed and well-executed on every technical level.
Featuring a fully-realized world and fleshed out characters, Zootopia is a fun and enjoyable moviegoing experience that offers something more for the mature viewer to ponder long after seeing it.