An animated movie that somehow is and isn't given the praise it deserves
This review comes from my Letterboxd profile, where I review all of the movies I see.
I think this movie has kind of gotten a reputation over the years. I saw a YouTube comment about La La Land that said that movie was basically so overrated that it became underrated, and I think that same terminology applies to this movie. This is a movie that people praised and praised and praised, and then after a while, people starting collectively agreeing that this movie wasn't as great as critics hailed it. Well, I personally still believe it is worth that praise. Zootopia is an excellently animated, incredibly fun adventure that takes a surprisingly in-depth look at so many topical and political issues today. I don't know how many times I saw this thing when it initially came out on Blu-ray. I just loved it.
The animation is absolutely astounding. The colors pop, the landscapes look realistic, and the expressions on the character's faces really help communicate their emotions even when they don't speak. It's incredibly detailed and gorgeous to look at. The characters are also really great. I love Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde as a duo and as individual characters, partly because Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman give some of the best vocal performances I've seen in a while. Heck, everyone in this movie gives a great vocal performance. Idris Elba, Nate Torrence, Jenny Slate, J.K. Simmons, Don Lake, Bonnie Hunt, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk, and so many more that I haven't even thought of here... they're all fantastic here. Yes, even Shakira. Mock me all you want because I feel like that's controversial, but I feel like she really was the perfect choice for the character they cast her as. The voice cast was awesome.
Michael Giacchno's score is also musically brilliant, fun, and tonally appropriate. It helps a ton with the action sequences, which are also really well done. However, something that I don't think should go underappreciated here is the writing. The writing is really smart and topically relevant. I don't remember who talked about this, but this movie truly is a movie about stereotypes. Animals that are unnecessarily stereotyped and want to step out of that, that match their stereotypes perfectly, that are the complete opposite of their stereotypes, that have been forced to embrace their stereotypes-- this movie really focuses on the way that our society tends to stereotype everybody, whether positively or negatively, whether subconsciously or openly. It's nuanced despite its comparison of human society and anthropomorphic animals being incredibly easy, and that's because its spin on the comparison is so unique.
I do have a few issues with the movie, though. Primarily, there's a complaint I have that is actually really unusual -- this is an animated movie I actually think would be better with a longer runtime. Yes, it's unusual for an animated movie to be longer than an hour forty-five, but there is a movie that has proven that runtime can be done effectively -- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Now, yes, that movie came out years after Zootopia and is more of a live-action movie that wouldn't have looked good in live-action, but it's proof that a two-hour-long animated movie can still appeal to kids and not feel like it's dragging unnecessarily. The pacing in Zootopia is lightning fast, and for the most part, that's good because it makes the runtime feel more like an hour. However, it also makes some of the character arcs feel a bit rushed, and I feel like the deeper themes of this movie and the deeper character arcs could have benefitted from a slightly longer runtime. Along with that, even though most of the pop culture references were so well-done that the movie can be enjoyed on its own without understanding what the references are, there are some lines in this movie that feel like they shouldn't exist in a completely animalized world. Judy Hopps quotes FDR's most famous line at one point, and I'm not really sure how anyone would know about that line unless some other famous animal figure happened to say the exact same thing, which I highly doubt.
Other than that, though, I feel like this movie gets a lot of unnecessary criticism nowadays. I still think this movie holds up astoundingly well with charming characters, incredible expressions and animation in general, great music, amazing voice work, and a heartfelt story that I think is still gonna feel timeless years and years from now. I still love Zootopia, and I still think it's an animated movie worth seeing.
Letter Grade: A