We Bought A Zoo (PG)
Directed by: Cameron Crowe
Starring: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Patrick Fugit, Colin Ford, Elle Fanning, Angus Macfayden and Peter Riegert
Running time: 124mins
Set in Southern California, a father moves his young family to the countryside to renovate and re-open a struggling zoo.
‘We Bought The Zoo’ is a movie that caught me off guard after watching a recent trailer but knowing nothing else about it.
The name of the film, alongside the aforementioned trailer, portray a totally different beast to the one I watched in the cinema with my young daughter.
Expecting a comedy of errors involving animals and children, alongside a goofy performance by Matt Damon, I walked out of the theatre shedding a tear or two at what was a funny, quirky and emotional little movie with plenty of heart.
Based on a true story, ‘We Bought A Zoo’ tells the tale of Benjamin Mee (Damon) and his family who have just moved into a dilapidated zoo after taking on the challenge of preparing it for its reopening to the public. Mee and his two young children, played by Colin Ford and Maggie Elizabeth Jones, have recently lost their wife and mother, and with other changes enveloping their lives too, Damon’s character decides to upsticks and start afresh elsewhere.
With no history of a zoological background he buys a property on the outskirts of the city and goes about restoring it for a fresh opening.
What elevates this film above schmatlz is the central performance of Damon as the man who has lost the love of his life and is struggling to keep together his young family as they deal with the changes in their lives.
The Oscar winning actor inhabits the role with real gutso and, for me, puts as much effort into this role as he does on other, shall we say, more heavy performances of his past.
Director Cameron Crowe brings his usual edginess to the screen along with a soundtrack that has real rock/pop sensibilities while the supporting cast, especially Scarlett Johansson, add steel to the story.
While this is very much a family film, it does tackle serious issues, including cancer, so don’t be expectating all fun and light if bringing young children. However, my young daughter, who can sometimes show a lull at times during a movie, was glued to the screen from the first minute to the last; no mean feat for a film that lasts two hours.
All in all, We Bought A Zoo is a great family movie that has Matt Damon playing a role that I hadn’t even thought he’d be interested in. With a solid supporting cast, this is one trip to the zoo I’d highly recommend.