I didn't go into Disney's newest film, Zootopia, with superhigh expectations. I'd seen the trailer a few times, and in those viewings, even I was getting annoyed by how slow that sloth was moving. I assumed the rest of the movie might be equally frustrating/yawn-worthy, but boy was I wrong. Watching the flick in 3D this weekend with my almost-5-year-old daughter, I quickly realized this film is fast as a cheetah, as lovely as a gazelle, and as smart as an elephant. Featuring as many delights for parents as it does for kids, this might just be my new favorite kids' movie of all time. Here's why you, too, might leave the theater loving Zootopia even more than your kiddos.
1. It's a visual delight.
When I heard the premise of the film, I assumed most of the action would take place in an animated big city, full of anthropomorphic animals, but the city of Zootopia is so much more. Gorgeous animation takes you through the city's arctic Tundratown, sandy Sahara Square, misty Rainforest District, miniaturized Little Rodentia, and the heart of it all, Savanna Central, where all the animals converge. Every terrain, including the adorable Bunny Burrow, main character Judy Hopps's hometown, and every animal (there are too many species to list, and all are enchanting) is so richly detailed and a true joy for the eyes.
2. The message is timely and important.
The main lesson of the movie, where former predator-and-prey foes now live in harmony, pursuing whatever opportunities they wish, is simple but powerful: you can be whatever you want, no matter what you look like or where you come from. A bunny cop can outshine the wildebeests, elephants, and rhinos on the force; a sly fox can be a helpful friend; and the smallest animals can be just as dangerous as the biggest. Throw in missives about believing in yourself and dreaming big and an important lesson about the perils of prejudice, and you have a meaningful story wrapped in a beautiful package.
3. It has pop culture references galore.
Technophiles will love Judy's trusty iPhone (look for the carrot replacing the apple on the back), complete with MuzzleTime app. Political junkies will latch onto the stories of multiple corrupt politicians. And movie and TV buffs will love the references to The Godfather, with the don being played by a tiny rodent, whose daughter bears a significant likeness to Jersey Shore's Snookie. My favorite scene, however, played out in an underground den, where a gas-mask- and yellow-jumpsuit-wearing sheep is cooking up a dangerous substance with his pals Walter and Jessie, a Breaking Bad reference that even a nonwatcher of the show like me totally loved.
4. It has action galore.
So many kid movies seem to have such narrow, simple plots that it's hard for parents to get too excited about them, but Zootopia is action-packed, with so many twists and turns that I totally didn't predict how it would all end. A few short scenes were a bit scary for my almost-5-year-old, but when balanced with the don't-call-her-cute (though she so is) Officer Judy Hopps, they made for an overall awesome movie experience for her and — maybe even more so — for me.