We Bought A Zoo is a film for the entire family. It is funny, romantic, dramatic and sentimental. It is also the best thing actor Matt Damon and director Cameron Crowe have done in years. Each brings out the best in the other. The film is based on a true story and it feels that way. The emotions ring true as does the plot and outcome. It is a simple film but also one of the year's best. It is totally enjoyable from start to finish.
Damon plays Benjamin Mee, a widower with two children. He is haunted by his late wife and can't stand to go to the places where the two of them went. With this thought in mind he decides to move his family to a new locale. His small daughter Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) is willing to give a new locale a try but her older brother Dylan (Colin Ford) is dead set against it.
Benjamin does find the perfect house and acreage; the only problem is that it is also the spot where a zoo is located. The situation is if you buy the house you buy the zoo, and have to operate it. Oh it does come with a staff but it still requires some work on the part of the new owners.
The main premise of the movie is the conflict between Benjamin and his son Dylan. They aren't able to communicate and it is killing both of them. Somehow the audience knows that working with the zoo animals will help bring father and son together.
Damon has always been a strange actor. Totally likeable he has always kept the audience at arm's length. The roles he has played have never given him a chance to be relatable to the average person. His personality has remained an enigma -- a likeable man but an enigma. This role as Benjamin allows him to open up and show his true persona, or at least what we hope it is.
Scarlett Johansson has a negligible role as the zookeeper/potential girlfriend. She underplays her role which is as it should be. By doing this she makes her more memorable than she otherwise would have been. Patrick Fugit of Almost Famous fame has a small role as a member of the zoo keeping staff. Thomas Haden Church is fine as Benjamin's brother who tries to keep Benjamin's spending in check.
Both Jones and Ford are outstanding as Mee's two children. Jones is a constant bright spot while Ford conveys the angst of a teenager realistically. His arguments with Benjamin are heart wrenching in their honesty.
The movie is rated PG for mild profanity.
We Bought A Zoo is a perfect holiday film. It provides solid entertainment, it involves you in its story, then it sends you out of the theater feeling good. What more could you ask for! Cameron Crowe has touched our hearts with movies like Say Anything and Jerry Maguire. He does it again with this film.
I scored We Bought A Zoo a menagerie 8 out of 10.
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