We Bought a Zoo Reviews
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."
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.
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.
Length: 124 minutes
Rating: 5 out of 10
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.
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.
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 clichÃ (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.