We Bought a Zoo Directed by: Cameron Crowe Cast: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Colin Ford, Maggie Elizabeth Jones, Elle Fanning Running Time: 2 hr 4 mins Rating: PG Release Date: December 23, 2011
PLOT: Journalist Benjamin Mee (Damon) moves his daughter (Jones) and son (Ford) to southern California after their mother dies, where they work to maintain a zoo.
WHO'S IT FOR? The PG-rating does guarantee family friendliness, but adults will take away more from this than kids. We Bought a Zoo has much more mature intentions than just making a more serious version of Zookeeper. It doesn't talk down to neither kids nor adults.
Based on the memoir of Benjamin Mee, a man who really did buy a zoo, this film isn't necessarily "too good to be true," as the saying goes, but instead feels maybe too incredible to ever happen in our world. The story of We Bought a Zoo is possessed by an attitude (or spirit) that puts the film in a slightly different dimension - a world just like ours, with the same people and animals, but one with a powerfully positive attitude. We Bought a Zoo is a touching reflection of what adventures all our lives could be, if we just let in some sunlight, used twenty seconds for "insane courage," and embraced those around us.
It's a questionable trust, understandably. But with its always-charismatic Matt Damon, the presence of animals, and its consistent sense of wonder, We Bought A Zoo is the type of feel-good movie you get caught up in, due to whatever comfort it can provide you.
To great effect, co-writer/director Cameron Crowe uses the voice of Jonsi (from Sigur Ros) to add some of that musical magic dust from the aforementioned bizarro optimistic world hovering above our own. With his songs sounding like the soundtrack to the gates of heaven opening, Jonsi's high-pitched voice is like the rest of the movie: almost too special to seem like it's from our humbling planet.
While it might be met with sniffling audience members, We Bought A Zoo doesn't jerk for tears during its sentimental areas. On top of dealing with sensitive subjects like loss, and the proper treatment of animals, Zoo features a few remarks on the power of love, which make for some of the film's most satisfying moments. Benjamin's retelling to his children of how he met his mother is an incredible ending to the film, and offers audience members with precise, resonant attitude: "Why not?"
The only jerking that Zoo can be accused of are of your happy bones, which is much less offensive than trying to crack tear ducts. A couple of climactic moments (the zoo's opening) feel a bit heavy-handed (and yes, due to the use of "Hoppipolla" by Sigur Ros), but in a film with such sweet and simple goals, they can be forgiven. For just this one time, the brightness of such shining moments might even be embraced.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10