We Bought a Zoo (2012)
A cute and soppy, largely unsatisfying film for adults with Matt Damon as the idealistic zoo keeper and bereaved father needing a fresh start. Inspired by the adventures of former British Journalist Benjamin Mee’s restoration of a countryside Zoo. The American treatment is as perfectly sweet as California raisins double dipped in chocolate, making it a pleasant enough escape for kids who can’t get to see real animals.
Hollywood’s go-to-man for light-hearted ‘dramedy’, Cameron Crowe of Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous fame directs this clunky sentimental journey of a widower who makes an against all odds life changing decision to move his two children to live on a functioning but dilapidated Zoo. Bright warm colours match the uplifting soundtrack from Sigor Ros’ Jonsi which Crowe uses at every opportunity. At its worse it starts to feel like an advertisement, but it’s undeniably effective at setting that cheery, everything is going to be alright mood.
The Zoo, Rosemoor Wildlife Park, is a cash draining eden and comes complete with a ready made bunch of live-in staff that appear more like cartoon characters. A novelty factor that won’t be lost on the kids. Think Groundskeeper Willy from the Simpsons, and work your way from there. Hipster crumpet Scarlet Johanssen leads the pack as the self sacrificing animal lover giving (FILF)* Damon some extra reason to succeed in his crusade. While her advances are welcomed they need to go by the wayside as the grieving Damon sets his sights more on his relationship with his kids, an unruly but gifted teenage son and a cute as pie 8 yr daughter. They do provide for meatier heart felt development in his character and ones that proves how versatile and convincing he is as an actor.
With very little by way of plot, a race to complete the zoo for inspection before open season is as taxing as it gets. Crowe is at his best weaving a film that is ultimately about relationships. Damon’s Benjamin Mee may appear to be on some wild idealistic path, but it’s secondary to building the sweet feel good moments between him and his team, his family, including the doubting brother (Thomas Haden Church) and of course the animals.
An uncomplicated sweet film aimed at celebrating new adventures where the sun always shine.
*you know what a MILF…
Director: Cameron Crowe
Stars: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church
Runtime: 124 min