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.
Length: 124 minutes
Rating: 5 out of 10