Mar 28 2012 by Ian Bunting, Airdrie & Coatbridge
We Bought a Zoo
WE Bought a Zoo stars Matt Damon as Benjamin Mee, a father who moves his young family to the Californian countryside.
It’s not as blissful as it sounds, though, as they have to renovate and re-open the struggling Rosemoor Wildlife Park zoo, but Benjamin is determined to make it work and embrace the challenging surroundings.
We Bought a Zoo is pretty sweet, harmless, family fare that pushes its luck a bit too much towards the end.
The film is based on the memoir by the real-life Benjamin Mee about his experience refurbishing and living at Dartmoor Zoological Park in Devon.
Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous) directs his first movie since 2005’s Elizabethtown and this rates as his lightest film yet.
Crowe also co-wrote the script with Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada) and they create a world where the biggest aggro revolves around a sick tiger and some frustrated father/son dynamics.
The film starts with Benjamin in a daredevil reporter role interviewing a dictator and flying into a storm and I couldn’t help think this character would’ve made for a better movie.
Benjamin is a widowed dad having to deal with two kids and Damon is a true delight as a family man with a heart of gold.
Maggie Elizabeth Jones as Benjamin’s daughter Rosie treads a thin line between adorable and annoying, much like little Jonathan Lipnicki in Jerry Maguire.
There’s not much subtlety as it literally takes less than five minutes for romance to blossom between Benjamin and Kelly (Scarlett Johansson) and Benjamin’s son Dylan (Colin Ford) and Lily (Elle Fanning).
More Thomas Haden Church, grouchy but fun as Benjamin’s brother Duncan, would’ve been nice and Curb Your Enthusiasm’s J. B. Smoove makes an amusing cameo as an estate agent.
The soundtrack is pretty good, if a little short of the standards set in previous Crowe movies.
Watch out for the weird Benjamin to lion close-ups when the decision is made to buy the zoo. What a truly bizarre moment that was.
The film’s main problem is its air of predictability and lack of any true dilemma; when faced with the choice of selling the zoo, Benjamin takes two scenes to make his decision... and I think you know how that goes.
At two hours long it overstays its welcome and the previously tolerable sweet tone collapses into full-on sickly, overbearing joy for the last 20 minutes.
We Bought a Zoo won’t be to everyone’s tastes but it’s a good tale to take the nippers along to.
And for those more mature audience members a story that touches on dealing with loss, family, taking chances, pretty animals and miraculously mud-free zoo-keepers that look like Scarlett Johansson should put at least a small smile on your face.
Rating – 6 out of 10.