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In Theaters


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Bob Hoose

Movie Review

Judy Hopps was always what you might call a go-getter. You could even say she was an eager beaver, if that didn’t sound so offensive to less-industrious semiaquatic rodents. Her 200-plus brother and sister bunnies might have been more than content to stay down home on the farm. But Judy had bigger plans!

You see, animals have now evolved beyond all that useless “predator and prey” bloodlust of their past. Indeed, they’re all part of a very civilized and conversant society these days. So why shouldn’t a tiny bunny have the opportunity to be something like, say, a cop when she grows up? That’s right, a little puff of whiskers, feet and fluff called Judy Hopps has always had the lion-sized dream of joining the rhinos, buffaloes and moose on the police force.

So she signed up for the police academy. And while her limited scale, shall we say, made things a bit difficult, with a little extra hop-to-it-iveness the little rabbit bounded all the way to the top of her class. And right after graduation she was assigned the job of her dreams: She was to be the first bunny cop in the big city of Zootopia!

Of course, even that plum assignment had its share of frustrating toe stubs and tail tugs. Since she’s the first to benefit from Mayor Lionheart’s new mammal-inclusion initiative, well, the other cops on the force haven’t been all that welcoming. They look right over and past her.

Why, Captain Bogo barely growled in her direction long enough to assign her parking meter duty. He wouldn’t even consider her doing anything else. And Judy just knows she could be helpful in a big missing-animals case that everyone else is working on. But if it’s going to be parking meter duty, well, Judy will be the best parking meter cop you ever saw. They want 100 tickets handed out in a day? She’ll do 200! Before lunch! Then … maybe she can spend the afternoon, well, kinda lifting an ear in this direction or that.

She’ll keep a keen lookout for any slippery weasels or shifty foxes who might pass her way. Not that she’ll be species-profiling or anything. No sir. Judy has a way of sniffing things out, is all. And if there’s any back-alley beastie badness going on, she’ll find it. You’ll see.

Positive Elements

Judy is a lovable and hard-working sort who refuses to give up and strives to be the best she can be. She also works diligently at doing the right thing. For instance, when she realizes that she holds a bit of deep-seated prey-vs.-predator prejudice against some other animals (especially a fox she meets named Nick), she apologizes for her feelings and actions. In a public speech, Judy implores her listeners to “try to make the world a better place. Change starts with you, it starts with me, it starts with all of us!” Indeed, the movie makes it crystal clear that bullying or pre-judging others because they’re different from you is a wrong and hurtful choice.

Though Judy’s parents are terrified of what might happen to her if she becomes a cop, they repeatedly express their love for her and their pride in her accomplishments. Nick has some underhanded, con-mammal character flaws to work through. But eventually his friendship with Judy makes him rethink his choices and even decide to join Judy on the police force.

As mentioned already, Judy shows us that the only things we should be doing when we’re facing a job we don’t much like is to do it better than anyone else. Do your best, even (especially) when you’re feeling low, she teaches us.

Spiritual Elements

A polar bear crosses himself at the mention of his boss’s deceased mother. When Judy’s parents learn that she is in a less-dangerous position at the police station, they exclaim, “Our prayers have been answered!” A confused animal says, “I thought she was talking in tongues or something.” An exuberant character calls out “Hallelujah!”

Sexual Content

When Judy teams up with the street-smart Nick to try to solve a crime, he leads her to a place called the Mystic Spring Oasis—where none of the animals wear clothing. They’re all covered in fur and display no sexual features, of course, but Judy cringes and covers her eyes at their “nakedness,” and the clear implication is that they’re mirroring a human nudist colony. (Camera angles call special attention to “certain” parts of their bodies as they obtusely bend and flex.) A singing gazelle dances and shakes her tail onstage (like a human pop star), wearing a halter top and short skirt.

Violent Content

There are some dark, roaring moments of peril in the course of Judy and Nick’s investigation that could leave the youngest of popcorn-munchers feeling a little afraid. Drugged animals, for instance, go wild and rabidly rip and tear at the environments around them. We see a small beast rake his claws across another animal’s forehead and eye. An angry fox scratches Judy’s face when she’s just a baby bunny. Larger animals threaten bodily harm to Judy and Nick.

A speeding railcar crashes and erupts in an explosion. A running weasel criminal causes havoc and destruction as he crashes through a tiny town of mice and shrews (with Judy barely able to save some of the tiny creatures). Kids perform a short play depicting mammalkind’s past predatory bloodlust—ketchup and red ribbons subbing in for spurting blood.

Crude or Profane Language

Two exclamations of “oh my god!” And “sweet cheese and crackers” can also be heard as a profanity. There are several uses each of “heck” and “darn” and an “oh cripes.” Name-calling includes “loser,” “dumb,” “moron,” “jerk” and “fluff-butt.”

Drug and Alcohol Content

Animals injected with a mysterious drug revert to their wilder predatory natures. Though we see nothing ingested, one character sounds and acts stoned (with a ‘60s hippie vibe).

Other Negative Elements

In a show of raw speciesism, an elephant clerk in an ice cream shop refuses service to a fox. Judy falls into an oversized toilet. Oh, and the good folks at the DMV are much maligned for being so slow. (They’re represented by sloths.)


Let’s come right out and say it: Children’s movies aren’t just for children anymore. Yeah, we still have the occasional kiddie pic that will have parents wishing they’d brought a pillow or a bottle of aspirin to the theater. But more and more, animated fare at the moviehouse is a multilayered, playful-yet-thoughtful contrivance that leaves parents buzzing in the front seat on the drive home as much as the kids are in the back.

Zootopia is a pic that definitely fits that bill.

On the surface it is a bright and delightful comedy about a cute, foot-thumping little bunny who won’t give up. She overcomes the biggest of bunny trail roadblocks to become exactly what she believes she was meant to be, while making lots of unlikely friends along the way. In other words, she stays true to herself and is kind to others. That’s as old-school a Disney theme as you’re gonna find.

But this good-vs.-evil tale set in a world of anthropomorphized animals is more that surface sweet. For the grown-ups it proffers a surprisingly hard-boiled (at least from a cartoon perspective) film noir detective story, featuring a cop and her CI (confidential informant for those of you who aren’t up on your gumshoe lingo) who endure each other and wade together through the mobbed-up underworld of shrews, polar bears and wolves, all in hopes of saving a city from a horrible and despicable wrong.

There’s even gratuitous nudity in the mix!

OK. Not really. But read on …

Because on top of all that, Mom and Dad will easily see that there is yet another layer here. This bouncy pic is designed to deliver a thump-the-pulpit sermon against any form of discrimination in our world. Zootopia’s particular brand of “species sensitivity” pushes onscreen critters—along with human moviegoers—to face up to their innate uncertainty (read: prejudices) about anyone not like them.

So far so good. But even when healthy tolerance peeks around the corner into the idea of accepting what people do (living as a nudist, for instance) and not just focusing on who or what they are (a particular body type or race), the movie seems to say that negative thinking still isn’t allowed.

Those are more carrots than you might expect to chew on while cabbing the kiddie crew home.

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Bob Hoose

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.