Disney’s latest delightfully tweaks the ever popular buddy-cop formula with anthropomorphic animals. Even since she was a child, Judy Hopps (v. Ginnifer Goodwin, as cute as a bunny as in real life) longed to be the first rabbit cop in the history of Zootopia, a metropolitan utopia where all animals—predator and prey—live together in harmony. Still fighting prejudices, Judy and a crafty fox named Nick Wilde (v. Jason Bateman) must find a missing family man, Emmet Otterton. What she discovers cuts right to the perfect heart of Zootopia.
Created by the guys behind both Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph, Zootopia sets Disney’s 2016 bar pretty high as a charming kids’ movie with a deeper message about intolerance. Even as it trots out a hoary, unnecessary plot device that muddles the final act and leaves a lot of this sprawling city’s potential on the table, this animated feature is close to the young year’s best. Bateman proves he needs more voice work; his deliciously subtle comic delivery melds wonderfully with the witty script. Disney may have solved its Pixar problem with the merger; what the older company continues to do now is prove it is as creatively viable as its animation partner.