Visually stunning and delightfully inventive, “Zootopia” is engrossing and entertaining for kids and parents. It is sophisticated and, largely, miraculously defecation free. And its ultimate message of inclusion in a society of a huge variety of species has never been more important. It’s not too painfully didactic, though; the main attraction is the large number of clothed, driving hamsters.

The “Chinatown” reference in another Disney movie, “Inside Out,” when a cloud person is killed and one cop advises the other, “Forget it, Jake; it’s Cloud Town,” was just the beginning of the fun you can have when cartoon animals solve crimes in an urban, noir universe. The joys and trials of a melting pot like Zootopia are perfect fodder for the long tradition of the police detective story, which is even better when the police are bunnies, elephants and Cape buffalo.  

The bustling, diverse metropolis that is Zootopia is endlessly interesting and full of visual and thematic depth. It is at once wildly imaginative and essentially realistic. The world of this story, in which predator and prey have left behind those roles and live together without eating one another, is fraught with tension and conflict that soon rises to the surface.  

The story of “Zootopia” is that brave, determined young female bunny Judy Hopps (Gennifer Goodwin) busts her tail to become the first bunny cop in Zootopia, and leaves behind her huge family in a small farming community to make a better life in the big city. She tries not to become disillusioned when she gets assigned parking duty, but soon she is working on a missing otter case, part of a string of disappearances.

Enlisting a fox con man voiced by Jason Bateman, the pair ultimately uncovers a conspiracy that threatens the precarious social order of Zootopia. This brings with it a marvelous, adorable mafia family of tiny rodents doing perfect “Godfather” characters, and sheep named Walt and Jesse cooking up some blue stuff in a lab.

This is a kids’ movie that doesn’t just let its characters be all they can be, it also shows real, ongoing problems and setbacks. Its mining of old movies and pop culture just adds another rich layer to the material. The situations mays be total fantasy, but the feelings and problems are quite real. Also, the peril conjured is just scary enough.

Having just attempted to view “The Good Dinosaur,” I can say that this is not an easy balance to strike. I appreciate the attempt to have serious moments or real struggle in a kids’ movie, but it would be nice if there was some moment of enjoyment at some point. “Zootopia” is far more successful at serving up fun and giving you something to think about. However, I would recommend it for school-aged kids; the youngest youngsters will find moments too scary, and other moments too talky, to sit through.  

Excellent voice acting develops a truly meaningful and satisfying friendship between the naïve bunny and the world-weary fox. Bateman has never been better, and I say this as an “Arrested Development” fan; apparently, the only way to avoid that smirk of his is to get rid of his face altogether. He manages genuine pathos and ultimate likeability in this role, in a way he has never gotten to as a human. His role has what the whole movie has: gumption, grace, charm and intelligence, against the backdrop of a fabulously imaginative world.

“Zootopia” is now playing in theaters.


NEW IN THEATERS

BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
Batman (Ben Affleck) launches a personal vendetta against Superman (Henry Cavil) and the rest of the world launches a personal vendetta against Ben Affleck.  This is going to be worse than when he dated Jennifer Lopez. All listed multiplex theaters.

MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2
Toula and Ian continue to try to balance old school Greek tradition with modern problems, like parenting a teenage daughter and keeping the spark in their relationship.  Crescent Theater, Carmike Jubilee Square 12, Carmike Wynnsong 16

THE BRONZE
A spoiled and largely forgotten Olympic medalist (Melissa Rauch) takes action when a promising young gymnast (Haley Lu Richardson) threatens her status as a local celebrity. Regal Mobile Stadium 18, Carmike Jubilee Square 12, Eastern Shore Premier Cinema 12, Carmike Wharf 15.

NOW PLAYING

NOW PLAYING

ZOOTOPIA
All listed multiplex theaters.

THE DIVERGENT SERIES: ALLEGIANT
All listed multiplex theaters.

MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN
All listed multiplex theaters.

THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY
All listed multiplex theaters.

THE PERFECT MATCH
Regal Mobile Stadium 18

THE YOUNG MESSIAH
Eastern Shore Premiere Cinema, Cobb Pinnacle 14

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE
Regal Mobile Stadium 18, Carmike Wynnsong 18, Carmike Jubilee Square 12

LONDON HAS FALLEN
All listed multiplex theaters.

WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT
All listed multiplex theaters.

THE HATEFUL 8
Carmike Wynnsong 16, Regal Mobile Stadium 18

THE BOY
Regal Mobile Stadium 18

THE WITCH
Regal Mobile Stadium 18

RISEN
Regal Mobile Stadium 18

DEADPOOL
Regal Mobile Stadium 18

KUNG FU PANDA 3
Regal Mobile Stadium 18

GODS OF EGYPT
Regal Mobile Stadium 18

THE REVENANT
Regal Mobile Stadium 18

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
Regal Mobile Stadium 18, Carmike Wynnsong 16

LIVING IN THE AGE OF AIRPLANES
Exploreum IMAX Theater