ir.gif

We Bought a Zoo

Posted on December 22, 2011 at 6:07 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for language and some thematic elements
Profanity: Some mild crude language, s-word
Alcohol/ Drugs: Some drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Sad offscreen deaths of parent and animal, some mild peril
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: December 23, 2011
Date Released to DVD: April 2, 2012
Amazon.com ASIN: B004LWZW9W

This is a good, old-fashioned family movie grounded in Matt Damon’s best-ever performance, inspired by the real-life story of a young widower who, without knowing a lot about animals or running a business, impulsively decided to buy a zoo.

Benjamin Mee (Damon) is a reporter still mourning the loss of his wife.  His young daughter Rosie (the very gifted and almost impossibly adorable Maggie Elizabeth Jones) is sad.  His teenage son Dylan (Colin Ford)  is angry and sad.  When Mee’s editor tries to reassign him, Mee realizes that the family needs something completely different.  And there is not much as different as a zoo.  At first Dylan is even angrier.  He has already lost his mother and now he has lost everything else that is familiar to  him.  And the zoo, which has been closed down will be very expensive to get into operating condition.  It makes no sense, as Mee’s practical brother (Thomas Hayden Church) keeps reminding him.  But after so much loss, Mee needs to feel that he can help something come alive.

The animals are cared for by Scarlett Johansson, looking sensational without make-up, as Kelly the zookeeper.  Mee survived a lot of dangerous situations as a journalist, covering dictators and hurricanes, but now he must be a participant, not an observer, and people, animals, and his family are depending on him.  Fortunately, he is handy with tools and has a fix-it frame of mind.  Unfortunately, that does not work with teenagers.  But Dylan is befriended by Kelly’s niece, played by Elle Fanning, who shows herself already a masterful actor by creating a distinctly different character from her equally sensitive performance earlier this year in “Super 8.”

This could easily have been sit-com-ish or corny — there is a persnickety inspector who has to sign off on the zoo before it can open and  a group of quirky but lovable staffers, a mostly-humorous search for an escaped animal, and a discreet but sad farewell to one of the big cats.  But director Cameron Crowe (“Jerry Maguire”), who co-wrote the script with “The Devil Wore Prada’s” Aline Brosh McKenna, makes it work with the help of a superb soundtrack by Jónsi.  And Damon’s performance centers the story with such presence and commitment that even viewers who pride themselves in being impervious to the charms of animals and children will find themselves melting.

 

(more…)

Related Tags:

 

Based on a book Based on a true story Drama DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Family Issues

The Real Story: We Bought a Zoo

Posted on December 18, 2011 at 3:33 pm

The new Cameron Crowe movie starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson is based on a true story about a real family that bought a real zoo. Damon’s character is based on author Benjamin Mee (shown here with Damon), who wrote We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals that Changed Their Lives Forever.

The real-life story is a little different from the one in the movie.  Both Damon’s character and the real-life Mee are widowers with young children.  But the real Mee bought the zoo with his mother, brother, and sister before his wife died.  The movie zoo is in the US.  The Dartmoor Zoological Park is located in southwest England.  Its 33 acres of woodland include tigers, lions, jaguar, lynx and cheetah, bears, wolves, tapir, capybara, racoons, meerkats, monkeys, deer, owls, ostrich, lechwe, bugs, reptiles and much, much more.  Mee’s charming description of his family’s decision to buy the zoo and their early days is on their website.  But it doesn’t say anything about a zookeeper on staff who looks like Scarlett Johansson.

Related Tags:

 

The Real Story
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik