We Bought a Zoo
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Acclaimed filmmaker Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous) directs an amazing and true story about a single dad who decides his family needs a fresh start, so he and his two children move to the most unlikely of places: a zoo. With the help of an eclectic staff, and with many misadventures along the way, the family works to return the dilapidated zoo to its former wonder and glory.
Though adapted from a memoir by a British journalist, We Bought a Zoo feels entirely like a Cameron Crowe film, with clear parallels to previous crowd-pleasers like Jerry Maguire. Crowe introduces Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon in a role that recalls his Contagion character) six months after the death of his wife. Since everything reminds him of her, the California columnist decides to make a change, starting with a new location. His realtor (Curb Your Enthusiasm's J.B. Smoove), brother (Sideways' Thomas Haden Church), and sullen teenage son (Colin Ford) try to talk him out of it, but Mee falls in love with a country manor that comes with a strange stipulation: the tenant must manage the zoo that accompanies the property. With his daughter's blessing, Mee takes the plunge. Fortunately, he inherits an experienced staff, including MacCready (Angus MacFadyen), Robin (Patrick Fugit), Lily (Elle Fanning), and Kelly (Scarlett Johansson, lovely as ever in her least glamorous role to date). Mee's road to reinvention offers few surprises, but Damon makes him a sympathetic figure who finds the same kind of support system among the park personnel that Fugit's Almost Famous writer found in the rock world, except Mee's relationships have more staying power. If his detractors--a skeptical employee and an unctuous inspector--feel like screenwriter constructs, Zoo represents a return to form for Crowe after a series of missteps, including Elizabethtown. Better yet, the real-life park that Mee acquired continues to lead by example as a humane habitat for endangered species. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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Based on a true story this was a good family movie, although the younger ones wouldn't be able to follow the subtle meaning behind some of the dialog which was very important to the overall story. Our smart five year old wouldn't get it. I'd think 8 to 10 years old and up might be a better age. The story has a grief theme as the mother of the children has passed away before the story begins. That thread runs through the movie and is the foundation for the entire story.
I have several movies with Matt Damon but I feel this is his best role.
This is a heartwarming family movie with light touches on the problems that arise during the story. The story is totally believable, and it's packed with a great cast. I always like Thomas Hayden Church who had a smaller role in We Bought a Zoo.
Movie making is all about the director. A director can totally screw up a good story and acting, or can bring a poor story to life. Cameron Crowe did a bang up job on this one. I think he may have squeezed a bit more out of a decent story than most directors could have.
This isn't an animal-centric movie so don't expect that. It's much more about the people and their struggle to make the zoo work. It's fairly predictable but for me that's okay for a family film. There are lots of light touches for a good chuckle.
Why not 5 stars? I reserve that rating for nothing but the best movies. While this is a great family film it simply isn't a match for some of my true favorites (Shawshank Redemption, Casablanca, that sort of thing).
From the adorably cute daughter to the grumpy teenage son and the Dad who needs to move on from Mom's death, the script almost writes itself with character arcs all revolving around the family moving to the country side and living with the animals. But it's very well done - an excellent cast holds it together and the dialog is believable enough to keep the audience engaged and routing for the zoo's success. My only question was why the zoo was moved from its real life location in England to a fictional rural area outside Los Angeles - some of the quirky zookeeper characters would probably have worked more effectively if it had stayed in the UK.
I've read some comments on both here and IMDB that the profanity is too much much for a family film - personally I didn't think there was anything that was not family oriented but then again I don't have kids! Though there is also a revealing fact about the Easter bunny that you may not want your children to know. Overall, it was much more entertaining than I expected and definitely a little different.
Damon stars as Benjamin Mee. Benjamin's wife passed away six months earlier and his life has been a whirlwind of keeping up with his two kids as well as working at a job he no longer likes. Looking for a career change and a new home, Benjamin discovers an old victorian-style house in the country. However, this house is much more than Benjamin bargained for; it's also a zoo, complete with bears, tigers, porcupines, and other animals. Undeterred, Benjamin goes ahead with the purchase. He has also inherited the zoo's staff, led by head zookeeper Kelly (Scarlett Johansen).
Benjamin and Kelly must deal not only with the animals, but also the snuffy inspector who has the power to shut the zoo down. With words of encouragement from his brother, Benjamin sticks it out and, with Kelly's help, manage to get the zoo up and running again.
I watched this movie with my children and we all enjoyed it very much. The story is based on actual events, and the acting, especially by Damon, Johansen, and Maggie Elizabeth Jones (Rosie) is first-rate. If you like good family movies, then don't miss "We Bought a Zoo". Highly recommended.
this movie was a little sad, but the highlight of the whole movie was the precocious little 7 year old daughter. she made the movie worthwhile. the acting was fabulous. the cast was wonderful and matt damon can make any movie great. it really was a feel good movie. there are lots of great scenes and conversations. we can all learn from strong family ties. an outstanding movie