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).
The movie revolves around a father and his son and daughter. It takes place not long after his wife and their mother has passed away and they are trying to find their new normal. The son has a hard time doing that and after being expelled from school they are looking for a new start. They end up buying a zoo, hence the title, and going through the struggles of getting the zoo back into working order and being certified to open. The movie is about relationships more than anything. Father and son relationship, husband and wife, living and the dead, and man/boy and woman/girl. In the end it is all a love story that teaches us to follow our hearts.
I quite enjoy the movie.