We Bought a Zoo - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

We Bought a Zoo Reviews

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Super Reviewer
July 4, 2015
Cameron Crowe aims for the Disney audience with this obvious-as-a-grammar school play crowd pleasing story about a single dad trying to raise his coming of age difficult children. I've actually given the whole film away by now except for the cute animal instagrams spread throughout. It was interesting to see Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson cover more down to earth material than the fantasy that is so prevalent nowadays, and both actors seem to warm to the presentation as well. One aspect Crowe nails is how aggravating teens are to everyone, quite without the artifice of most productions.
Super Reviewer
½ December 27, 2011
Let's be honest, Crowe's older films had much more energy, honesty and unpredictability. Here, you know immediately what you are getting, and you are getting a lot of it. Family drama, cute animal humor, romance, and the notion that hard work can make you achieve anything. That's naive and sometimes even a bit annoying. And yet the film ends of engaging you after all, because of the likable characters and Crowe's instinct to use the right song for the right scene. By the wonderful ending the film has won you over and you can't help but sit there with a bug stupid grin on your face. It then adds a real tear-jerker of a final scene that gives it all more depth than you got for two hours before that. Quite a feat.
Super Reviewer
½ December 22, 2012
I've always enjoyed Cameron Crowe's work; he has a nice touch that brings a unique viewing experience. With We Bought a Zoo, he crafts a fun little film that does show limitations and could have been a bit better considering the premise of the film. Despite this, this is a fun little film that has heart and is among Cameron Crowe's best in several years. Crowe has always had a good eye for what makes for a fun crowd pleaser, and though this is far from perfect, he manages to deliver a film that should appeal to the entire family. There are parts that could have been reworked a bit, but overall this film works well enough to be worth seeing. With that said, the film is a heartwarming drama that really is well acted and is truly terrific. Acting wise, there are some very good performances and Matt Damon really delivers something special here. This is an underrated film that is fun from start to finish. I very much enjoyed watching this, and I felt it had enough elements to make this a worthwhile feel good movie. Cameron Crowe knows how to create something special and he captures a wonderful story. With a great cast, great acting and an interesting plot, We Bought a Zoo overcomes its imperfections to really bring out a very well crafted drama. Expect a wonderful film and don't believe the flack the film has received because it is a true life story that is simply engaging and memorable.
Super Reviewer
½ December 1, 2012
This was okay to watch once. Drags on a bit, but story is nice and cast are good.
Super Reviewer
½ February 11, 2012
Absolutely wonderful!! A feel good, sentimental, sweet, funny movie. Very, very enjoyable!
Super Reviewer
½ December 16, 2010
Cast: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Patrick Fugit, Colin Ford, Elle Fanning, Maggie Elizabeth Jones, John Michael Higgins, Angus Macfadyen, Peter Riegert, Stephanie Szostak, J.B. Smoove

Director: Cameron Crowe

Summary: In this adaptation of Benjamin Mee's memoir about buying and saving a run-down zoo, the locale shifts from Britain to southern California. However, the wacky spirit of the original is retained, complete with escaped tigers and a zoo crew of misfits.

My Thoughts: "A sweet movie about a family struggling to move on and heal. The relationship between father and son is strained and tense. But I think the son is acting out for attention. He is upset and grieving, but having difficulty dealing with his feelings. I think the father, Benjamin, turned a blind eye to it. He seemed more focused on his daughter Rosie (who is played by an extremely adorable Maggie Elizabeth Jones) and her happiness more so then his sons. He even metioned to Dylan that he needed his help to make her happy. That was sad to watch when the son, Dylan, is screaming for him to help him be happy.
I didn't see why Dylan and Lily needed to have the scene of declared love. Seemed unnecessary for the film and forced. Just cheesy."

"You know sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage."
Super Reviewer
½ December 28, 2011
Director Cameron Crowe is certainly no stranger to maudlin sentimentality. I have found a few of his films rather good though. I enjoyed "Singles" and "Almost Famous" and despite some critical panning, I found "Vanilla Sky" to be a bit of a darker delicacy from him. Even "Jerry Maguire" was decent. However, the abysmal "Elizabethtown" didn't sit too well at all and I thought Crowe couldn't crank up the excessive mushiness any further after that. I was wrong.
Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) is a widowed father, bringing up his two children by himself, after losing his wife to cancer. Things aren't going well though as his son gets expelled from school and he feels the need to quit his job on an L.A. newspaper. He decides that a fresh start is needed for them all and takes his two kids off to live in a run-down country house with a run- down zoo attached. It seems like lunacy at first but Benjamin decides to refurbish the place and bring the zoo back to life.
There is a question that's asked between two characters at the end of this film... "If you had to choose between people and animals. Who would you pick?" On this evidence, I'd chose the animals. The cheese factor is so high on the people that they may aswell be walking chunks of four week old camembert. I swear I could see the mould on them. The performances aren't bad per se but Crowe's direction is so high on the schmaltz that I was crying out for a Travis Bickle to come and wash this scum out of the park. Someone to just take this zoo "and just... just flush it down the f**kin' toilet." Damon puts in his usual, likeable, everyman job and shows good emotive moments. The rest of the cast are also quite appealing and even Johansson's pout is kept to a minimum. The only glimmer of anything natural here though, is the animals. Everything else is completely manufactured tosh. As mentioned, the problem lies in Crowe's direction. He doesn't let the characters breathe and develop on their own. He forces you to feel for them. He feeds you more shit than it's possible to shovel at a zoo and my emotional state felt violated at his insistence. Subtle, this film is not. Stereotypical and predictable, it is.
There's an integral, recurrent piece of fatherly advice that runs throughout..."You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it."
Maybe Crowe shouldn't have actually applied this advice to himself. He may have taken that twenty seconds of insane courage but something 'great', certainly, DID NOT come of it. There is one word that's correct about that quote though... 'Embarrassing'. Crowe must be in the midst of mid-life crisis or something. It's the only way you can explain such nauseating cloyingness. Is he compensating for something, or did mommy and daddy not pay him enough attention when he was a child?
If you have a sweet tooth, then this will be a real treat but otherwise, stick to something with a bit more zest and sharpness.
Tired of Previews
Super Reviewer
½ December 27, 2011
Directed (co-written) by Cameron Crowe, 20th Century Fox, 2011.

Starring: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Angus Macfadyen, Carla Gallo, Elle Fanning and John Michael Higgins.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family

Question: What would you do if your daughter says to you when looking at a group of people having a good time, "Their happiness is too loud"? First your heart would sink and then you would do anything, even if it was considered crazy, to make sure your kids are happy again.

Months ago I posted the preview for We Bought a Zoo and was waiting for it's release. The story looked a little too sweet but every once in a while you need a movie like that - a feel good movie. Plus, it was a Cameron Crowe movie and I have enjoyed many of his movies. On Christmas day I finally saw it. (Side note: it's been my family's tradition for decades to see a movie on Christmas day and this year I wouldn't pass up another opportunity to see a movie.)

I usually don't use a quote from movies I have just seen, but the one I used in the first paragraph sort of struck a chord with me and I had to share it. There are actually many great lines in this film although many I feel were forced and trying a little too hard to tug at one's heartstrings. But I was sort of expecting that once I saw the preview.

Short summary: Matt Damon plays Benjamin Mee, a widower raising his two children 6 months after his wife passes away. He then tries to change their entire living situation to better his children's mental state (and his) so he buys a home that happens to be in the middle of a zoo that requires major renovation. There is a lot of family turmoil between the father and son; and the man is so lost without his wife that he barely functions with getting over his own grief.

The father's intentions to help his children overcome their grief should evoke a lot of strong emotions. If you have children and they are suffering, as a parent, you will do whatever takes to help them. Sacrifices and attempts at trying anything to make them happy is an essential part of being a parent especially when you are the only parent who can help. However, the weight of that is extremely heavy and Matt Damon did a convincing portrayal. Fortunately, there was a lot comic relief throughout the film to counterbalance the drama.

Over all I enjoyed this movie but wish it would have toned down the sweetness factor a tad bit. Nonetheless, I believe many will find We Bought a Zoo the perfect family movie. In fact, my children both gave the movie 9 out of 10 -but the animals may have helped swayed their vote a little. They were cute.

Based on the book and true story: We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals That Change Their Lives Forever by Benjamin Mee

My favorite thing: The daughter is simply precious - she stole every scene.

My least favorite thing: The film-makers tried a little too hard to force a romantic set-up between two characters.

Rating: PG
Length: 124 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 10
Super Reviewer
½ March 28, 2011
Family friendly feel-good film based (loosely) on the true story of Benjamin Mee and the Dartmoor Zoological Park near Sparkwell, England. The script, sentimental as it is, makes little use of its exquisite cast. I expected more of Cameron Crowe.
Super Reviewer
April 27, 2012
You can always tell a Cameron Crowe movie from other movies. "Almost Famous", "Jerry Maguire", "Elizabethtown", are all different movies with similar traits. Some comedy, lots of sentimentality, usually a cute kid, and great music. "We Bought a Zoo" has all of that. Matt Damon stars as a widower who is left with his two children, and looking for a new place to live. So, he decides to buy an abandoned zoo, and works to reopen it. The movie is filled with animal humor, sweet moments with his kids, and Scarlett Johansson being dreamy as ever. His daughter is the cutest kid I've seen in a movie in a long time. Perfect casting overall. It's a great family movie, that people of all ages will enjoy. The movie does drag a little here and there(like most Crowe movies), but overall it's entertaining. Not Crowe's best movie, but worth a watch or two.
Super Reviewer
August 17, 2011
"We Bought a Zoo" is two hours of possibly the most enjoyable fluff Cameron Crowe could muster. It's sweet, it's predictable, it's also well written and full of heart. Bolstered by a terrific Matt Damon performance, it's a family film actually worth rounding up the family to watch!
Super Reviewer
January 20, 2012
Matt Damon portrays real-life man Benjamin Mee, who's wife has recently passed away. To cope, he moves away with his charming daughter and his expelled son. When he finally find the house wants, he realizes that it is actually a zoo. He is determined, once he meets the workers who live there, that this is going to be his new home no matter what. Based on a true story, the filmmakers do an amazing job at capturing the emotions of the characters, and there is not a single time in the film when I hated anyone, and that was a very nice feeling. Some of the dialogue does feel like it has been written for a soap opera television show, but it quickly changes gears before becoming too sappy. The acting is terrific, the story is very touching, the score is very forceful (but still great), and there is not one character that you will not feel for. "We Bought A Zoo" tries a little too hard to be witty, and sometimes tries a little too hard to tug on the heart strings, but when it works, Oh my god does it work. I was crying a lot during my viewing of this film. It made me feel like a changed person, and my love for animals grew significantly! This film is great!
Super Reviewer
March 30, 2012
I suppose there isn't much to comment on, which is seen to be a bad thing, but it is made up through the main characters shining through the screen and bringing a nice, comfortable film to watch with the family.
Super Reviewer
½ November 9, 2011
Set in Southern California, a father moves his young family to the countryside to renovate and re-open a struggling zoo.

Very good family film. Everyone acted very well in this film, I thought seeing Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson in these roles really shows there versatility as actors and human beings. We Bought a Zoo is no action-packed, high suspense adventure movie. What it is is an inspirational family movie that I really enjoyed.

A widower (Matt Damon) purchases a zoo in order to bring his family back together in this Twentieth Century Fox adaptation of Benjamin Mee's autobiographical memoir. Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous) writes and directs based on a script by Aline Brosh McKenna.
Super Reviewer
January 26, 2012
"You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it."

Set in Southern California, a father moves his young family to the countryside to renovate and re-open a struggling zoo.

Few movies are as genuinely good-natured as We Bought A Zoo, and sometimes it's just fun to watch movies about the human spirit and to realize that life truly is beautiful. In We Bought A Zoo, Matt Damon portrays Benjamin Mee, a widowing father who is now having to care for his fourteen-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter on his own, so what is his solution when his son is expelled from school, to buy and renovate a zoo, of course. What We Bought A Zoo captures so effortlessly is grief and love, how both can often be the same, yearning for lost love, and how one can conquer the other and help a person to carry on with life. Benjamin and his family rediscover love in their newfound home, love with the zoo staff -- from Scarlett Johansson to Elle Fanning -- to the animals themselves, and also rediscover their love for one another.

We Bought A Zoo is just honest and true in how it portrays relationships, in how Benjamin tries to figure out his relationship with his distant teenage son, and how he tries to keep his daughter from having to grow up too quickly and help her remain an innocent child. The real winners here are the actors, Damon, Johansson, the kids who portray Benjamin's children -- in particular the too-cute-for-her-own-good Maggie Elizabeth Jones as Rosie -- I especially loved Thomas Haden Church as Benjamin's older brother who lends some of the largest laughs of the movie. Simply what director Cameron Crowe has achieved here is a movie that is funny, touching, and genuinely makes you feel good. Of special note, the music by Sigur Ros' Jonsi accentuates all of the right moments and never misses a beat.
Super Reviewer
January 16, 2012
So soap it's suffocating.
Super Reviewer
January 14, 2012
This has to be one of the most formulaic and predictable films I've ever seen. I mean, seriously, there was not one moment in this film I didn't see coming. The characters seem like they came right from a Disney film, the troubled son, the upbeat and weird daughter, the struggling father. Cameron Crowe's ''We Bought a Zoo'' is clichà (C)d to the max. However, if it hadn't had been for Matt Damon and Jonsi, this would've been complete garbage. Matt Damon is great in this film, he makes his character much more likeable than he should be. He injects a lot of emotion into very predictable and clichà (C)d scenes that make those scenes almost work. Damon's character is sympathetic for the most part, and if that hadn't been case, there would be no emotional core whatsoever.
Jonsi's soundtrack though, OMG! If there's one reason I wanted to see this, it was for Jonsi and I was proven right. Unlike the film itself, his score is memorable, tugs on your heartstrings and is full of energy. I guarantee that I would've cried in some scenes if they weren't so clichà (C)d, because Jonsi's soundtrack was fantastic.
The story is so contrived, the film is too long and there are some cringe-worthy moments. However, Crowe's latest just about gets by because of Damon, Jonsi and the fact that it lightened up my mood a bit.
Bathsheba Monk
Super Reviewer
January 11, 2012
You can't go too wrong with a movie that stars Scarlett Johansson, Matt Damon, that cute little girl (who was she?) and animals for pete's sake! It's a good story about a writer who is forced into the world of action (after a lifetime of observing) when his wife dies at about the same time as the newspaper he works for is downsizing. I liked that he didn't get over his wife as soon as he saw the head zoo keeper (Scarlett) and that he kept talking about her even to Scarlett. I personally like a little more unpredictable action in a movie, it is a story that gets told a lot, but there were always those animals! Oh, yeah, the scene where Damon stares down a bear is some kind of wonderful.
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