Zootopia review: An instant Disney classic

Like most of Disney's films, Zootopia is a cuddly adventure, full of huggable characters and underdogs to root for.

From prejudice to bullying, Zootopia covers a myriad of issues that face people — or animals, rather — today. But unlike some of Disney's past movies, Zootopia marks a return to incorporating an equal amount of comedy in the film's storyline, volleying back and forth between the intense dramatics of what's befallen the metropolitan city of Zootopia and the hilarious banter between the two main characters, Judy and Nick.

Judy (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) is a rabbit with a dream. Growing up in a rural village with more than 200 brothers and sisters, Judy always fantasized of one day becoming a police officer and moving to the New York City inspired Zootopia, where different breeds of animals live together in peace and harmony. She pushes herself through the police academy, despite everyone in her life telling her to give up on pursuing her dreams, and eventually becomes the first bunny officer in the Zootopia Police Department. Even though she spent months proving she had what it takes to be one of ZPD's finest, Judy's assigned to be a meter maid, facing the laughter and scorn of her co-workers day in and day out.

It's during her time as a meter maid, however, that she meets longtime con-artist and witty fox, Nick (voiced by Jason Bateman). When she schemes her way out of meter maid duty and into the dangerous assignment of helping a ferret track down her missing husband, Judy recruits Nick into helping her navigate Zootopia's underworld to track down their missing person. While resentful and annoyed with Judy's blackmailing ways at first, Nick winds up becoming her closest confidant, and in the long run, best friend. The two unlearn their initial first opinions of the other, discovering that their prejudices were merely clouding their vision of who they really were.

Lessons like these are abundant in all of Disney's movies, but this isn't just another subtle message that the writers and directors wanted to explore. The issue of prejudice dominates the movie. At one point, the "predators" are painted as "savages" that the "prey" must hide and protect their children from. This group of people are alienated and muzzled, ostracized from the rest of Zootopia because they look different from the rest of the city's citizens. Even Judy, who tries to see past the predator and prey categories of animals living in the city, gets caught up in the fear mongering, turning her back on her best friend Nick, a so-called dangerous fox.

Disney doesn't sugarcoat the issue, and because of that decision the movie never loses its intensity. It's remarkably aware of the theme that it's presenting to its audience and instead of staying away from what could be conceived as a controversial topic, Disney asks viewers to confront it head-on. All of which results in Zootopia not just being one of the most entertaining movies of the year, but also one of the most important. It's reflective of the issues facing our society right now, and through the use of cuddly animals, allows the conversation to unfold with the least amount of animosity possible.

The issue of prejudice dominates the movie.

Zootopia is an intelligent movie that knows how to win an audience over. Despite the intense nature of the film and its subject, Zootopia is also one of Disney's funniest in years, with Bateman's Nick offering up line after line of witty dialogue. There were moments when I was howling with laughter, echoed by both the adults and children in the theater. While the physical comedy is intended for the younger movie-goers at who the film is inevitably targeted toward, there are hilariously blunt lines driven toward adults about the disappointment of adulthood and modern society that nail the landing each time. One of the most memorable comedic moments in the movie takes place near the beginning, when Judy tells her parents, a couple of simple carrot farmers, that she wants to be the first rabbit police officer.

"Do you know why your father and I are so happy, Judy?" her mother asks. "It's because we settled. We're excellent settlers."

Zootopia is full of these biting one-liners that have you laughing one minute and groaning about how true the sentiments are the next. It's another example of what the movie has going for it that other Disney movies often times do not: a sense of maturity.

From the overall theme of segregation and prejudice to the almost overwhelmingly honest comedy, Disney has created one of its most memorable movies in years. It's hard not to fall head-over-heels for the characters and the gorgeous animation, but more importantly, Zootopia is the best example of what animation has the potential to be. It is a near-perfect, flawless movie that's hyperaware of its existence within the realm of Disney's overarching film landscape, including multiple references to other Disney movies, including Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph.

Like The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast — and yes, Frozen — Zootopia has cemented itself as an instant Disney classic that will be cherished for generations to come.