Rating: 4 stars out of 5
The Cast: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Patrick Fugit, Elle Fanning, Colin Ford
The Buzz: Based on a real life memoir of how Benjamin Mee and his family used their life savings to buy and restore a broken down zoo, “We Bought A Zoo” is also director Cameron Crowe's first film since 2005's “Elizabethtown”.
The Story: Well the title of the movie is pretty literal but here goes. Adventure seeking writer and newly widowed Benjamin Mee is dealing with his loss and also trying to cope with his two kids, the rebellious 14 year old Dylan and innocent as a cupcake 7 year old Rosie. When seeking a new home and a new start for his family, he comes across the perfect house – with a catch. It's in a zoo. To escape his past, he does the unthinkable and uproots his family and buys a zoo.
inSing.com thinks: If you've ever seen a Cameron Crowe film, you'll know that how his films are like. They're unique as he is able to bring a special touch of sincerity to his films, and that the warm fuzzy feeling you get from them doesn't come off as hokey.
His films are kind; a trait not shared by many other directors and really is something rare in the current cynical world we live in. “We Bought A Zoo” is no different. It certainly has all the hallmarks of a classic Crowe movie with great emotion and some witty lines that'll make you chuckle.
The movie centres around a central theme; how the Mee family deals with the loss of a loved one and how they attempt to move on. Through the eyes of the members Mee family, the audience gets to experience the wonder of buying a zoo--Benjamin (Matt Damon) who wants the best for his kids Dylan and especially Rosie. Dylan, the teenager who feels neglected by his dad and of course, Rosie, whose sense of innocence and wonder your kids will certainly identify with.
Of course, along with uprooting your entire family, naturally comes some opposition. In this film, it comes along in the form of Benjamin's very different and disapproving, pragmatic yet supportive accountant of a brother, Duncan, who has some of the best snarky lines and laugh out loud moments in the film. They also meet the varying staff of the zoo, led by head zookeeper Kelly Foster, played by the lovely Scar Jo, as well as many others like Robin (Patrick Fugit, who was also the leading man in Crowe's “Almost Famous”) and Kelly's cousin, Lily (Elle Fanning).
Damon delivers an earnest performance as a man trying his best to get over it and find acceptance in the most unlikely way possible. Meanwhile, ScarJo and the rest of the crew grow together with him, a group of people unsure of what to make of a man who buys the zoo on impulse. Together, they bond over the almost financially impossible task of restoring the zoo, as well as the frayed relationships they have to deal with as a result of the loss around them.
The film is an honest look at how loss affects people, and surely the many animals don't hurt when it comes to entertaining the kids as well. There are many saccharine sweet moments that will make you chuckle with joy as the characters all overcome that very feeling of loss. Crowe certainly has the knack of making relatable characters that seem oh so ordinary, and in turn also making them oh so easy to identify with.
Though it is a wee bit convenient at times – (a zoo with two pretty girls of the same age who work there for a father and son to meet???), “We Bought A Zoo”is a film that has charm, wit and sincerity in loads, and probably only the most cynical of us will be able to resist this film and its cast of likable characters and zoo animals. And since it’s the festive season, shouldn't everybody be allowed to feel warm and fuzzy?