We Bought a Zoo is the first film from director Cameron Crowe since 2005’s Elizabethtown. Based on a true story, Matt Damon plays Benjamin Mee, a father of two whose wife has not long passed away. Struggling to cope with life and looking after his two children, seven year old Rosie and fourteen year old Dylan, Benjamin makes the life changing decision to move out of the city and buys an old country house. The only problem is, the house comes with an old defunct zoo which is in need of repair and whose animals require medical attention. Though unsure to begin with, the family eventually take on the challenge of fixing up the zoo in preparation for its grand reopening, along with the help of the zoo’s staff (Scarlett Johansen, Elle Fanning) and Benjamin’s brother Duncan (Thomas Haden Church).
Definitely a family film, We Bought a Zoo has a far-fetched premise which suffers slightly from just being too overly sentimental and soppy at times. Benjamin’s grief over losing his wife is central to the plot, as well as the conflict he has with his son, who finds it hard to come to terms with their new life. These strands are slightly undermined by the light-hearted and extremely safe script, though also add a depth that would not exist otherwise.
At just over two hours long the film is never dull. The performances are good with likeable characters and it is well directed by Crowe. Although there are many painfully sugary moments, We Bought a Zoo has warmth and spirit that will make you smile.
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