A couple of weeks ago I wrote my 2016 pick of kids films and Zootropolis was top of the list. The rainy bank holiday afternoon seemed like the perfect excuse to head to the cinema with my daughter Sofia (aged 7). It is fair to say a lot of people had the same idea as the first showing that we tried to go to was sold out.
I went into this movie really wanting to love it and I was not disappointed. My kids have watched the trailers hundreds of times over so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. As a mum of a young daughter I’m predisposed to loving any film that has a strong female lead. Judy Hops (a bunny voiced by Gennifer Goodwin) totally ticks the box for being a feisty female character. Far from being a princess in need of rescue she is a bunny police recruit in the tough world of the Zootropolis police department (ZPD). I was totally rooting for her from the word go. Everyone loves an underdog and we get to see a little glimpse of Judy’s back story and see that she has got to where she is today through hard work and determination. Big tick in the “positive messages for our impressionable kids” box.
I will not give away the details of the plot but the basic premise is that Judy Hops is an idealistic rooky police officer on her first day on the job. She has 48 hours to prove herself by cracking a tough case. Judy Hopps is helped along the way by Nick Wilde a street smart fox character (voiced by Jason Bateman). Zootropolis is essentially a police mystery however the victim, witness and perpetrators are all various different species of animal. There are some really good twists in the story and like the best kind of police dramas I didn’t find it in any way predictable (unlike a tonne of other kids movies where you can see what is going to happen next from a mile away). The story is fast paced as the race is on to solve the case. It really held my daughters attention and I didn’t look at my watch once during the 1 hour 48 minutes duration of the action.
Zootroplois is rated a PG rather than a U and personally I would recommend it for slightly older children. There were two scenes that my 7 year old daughter watched from behind her fingers as she thought they were a little bit scary. I think kids that are a little bit older will also be able to follow the details of the plot better. After a little bit of deliberation I decided that Zootropolis was a bit too grown up for my 3 year old twins (this was also taking into account that they have only been to the cinema once before). This was based on knowing what they like and what they find scary. I think for my preschoolers this was the right judgment call. Having said that there was a lot of families with quite young children in the cinema – it’s all down to knowing what your kids do and don’t enjoy.
I thought the choice of Idris Elba as voice of the tough police chief was inspired. For me he is indistinguishable from his character Luther so it made him very believable as the head of ZPD. There were lots of clever adult references throughout the film with clear nods towards the God Father films and the TV show Breaking Bad. These were subtle enough not to get in the way of the action or to detract from a child’s experience of the story. Visually the film is gorgeous looking – I particularly liked the little details in the rain forest zone of the city.
I don’t want to over think things but there are some very relevant modern themes running though the film. It gives a couple of examples of how people can be easily stereotyped, some of the animal species face prejudice and Judy Hops gets a hard time for being a bunny and a girl. There were a couple of powerful “don’t judge a book by its cover” moments The film also looks at how people who are different can live together peacefully or how they can come to fear each other. This felt really relevant given current world events. A couple of moments for me hinted at current world politics.
There were some laugh out loud funny moments along the way – particularly the sloth characters who were priceless. Sofia and I came out of this film feeling really happy and uplifted. We were both singing the insanely catchy theme tune sung by the beautiful Gazelle pop star character, voiced by Shakira
“I won’t give up, no I won’t give in
Till I reach the end and then I’ll start again
No I won’t leave, I wanna try everything
I wanna try even though I could fail”
Sofia and I would wholeheartedly recommend Zootropolis. We have collectively decided to give it a rating of 8.5 out of 10 (I wanted to give it 9 out of 10 but Sofia was very insistent that I knock off half a point because of the scary bits).