We Bought a Zoo
We Bought a Zoo Movie Review
Have you ever walked out of a movie theater and felt genuinely happy that you just saw a particular movie? I'm not talking about being thrilled that the movie was OVER--- heaven knows there's been enough of those experiences in my life. What I'm describing here is the feeling of being able to be entertained for 2 hours and feeling like your life is just a little bit better because of what you saw. And with everything that we are sometimes surrounded with during the rest of the day, that's a nice change of pace.
THE GOOD: 'We Bought A Zoo' is based on the true story of an actual man named Benjamin Mee (played in the film by Matt Damon) who, with his family, bought the Dartmoor Zoological Park in Devon, England. In the film, the actual story takes place in Southern California and sadly, there were no British accents to be found. But I quickly got over that little disappointment and was drawn into the story line of a man who is grieving the loss of his wife (due to a terminal illness we can assume, there is no mention of specifics-only that she was ill), and is now trying to raise two children: Dylan (played by Colin Ford), and Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones). He has grown restless with his job, and being the adventurer at heart that he is, decides that it's time to make a new start in life. And of course, what could be more of a complete change of lifestyle than buying a deserted house that just happens to come with an abandoned zoo? Benjamin's brother Duncan (Thoman Haden Church), who is a 'jack of all trades' turned accountant, advises him NOT to buy the zoo---as any good accountant would. But he refuses to listen and, without the slightest previous knowledge or experience when it comes to exotic animals or running a business in general, he and his kids start the adventure of a lifetime. Luckily, the purchase also came with a small staff including Scarlett Johannson who plays Kelly, the head zookeeper, and Angus Macfadyen, the loveable and inebriated Scottsman, Peter. This group has been taking care of the animals without pay since the last owners left it behind, and now are hoping for Benjamin to turn everything around. Clearly they were hoping for someone with a little more zoo expertise, and it soon becomes clear that he needs them every bit as much as they need him.
The story is sweet and heartfelt. Yes, there are no big surprises---you can pretty much guess where everything is going. But I didn't mind that so much, because the story itself drew me in. What would I do, for example, if after losing my spouse and being on my own to take care of my children-who are in turn struggling to accept the loss of their parent? Would I have the courage to start a different path and try to give them a life experience they would never forget, even if I had no idea what I was doing? I like to think I would be that brave, and I loved the fact that Benjamin also took that chance. The acting was excellent, most notably by Damon and Ford in their father/son scenes that ranged from funny to emotionally charged. And the too cute for words little girl Rosie (Jones) was a scene stealer if I ever saw one---the girl has a big future ahead of her, no question. I would gladly adopt that child, she was just that adorable.
THE BAD: As far as there being anything in the movie I would change, there wasn't a lot of downers for me, but being the family movie that it was billed as, I really could have done without using the adorable little girl to call the anal retentive Zoo inspector (played by John Michael Higgins)a naughty name. I know there are people out there who find it hysterical when little kids say bad words, I just don't happen to be one of them---especially when it was a line they were asked to say.
THE UGLY: Snakes. Lots and lots of snakes. The fact that the snakes also escape at one point was something that all Ophidiophobics should be made aware of. You were warned.
The general consensus in the movie critic circles seems to be a lukewarm reception to this film, but I found it warm and loveable. It might not win big awards, but sometimes the things in life that are simple and sweet don't get the praise and attention they deserve.
The Trophy Wife gives this movie 4 trophies.
We Bought a Zoo has a running time of 124 minutes and is rated PG for language and some thematic elements. (No F words)