We Bought a Zoo Movie Review - www.impulsegamer.com -

We Bought a Zoo 

  Reviewed by Damien Straker on December 19th, 2011
  Fox
presents a film directed by Cameron Crowe
 
Screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna and Cameron Crowe, based on a 
  memoir by Benjamin Mee

  Starring:
Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church,  
  Colin Ford, Elle Fanning and Maggie Elizabeth Jones

  Running Time:
123 mins
 
Rating: PG
 
Released:  December 26th, 2011


7/10

 

 

Benjamin (Matt Damon) is a single parent and a writer, looking after his teenage son Dylan (Colin Ford)  and his small daughter Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones). Following the death of their mother the kids have not been coping particularly well. Dylan is regularly distracted by his angry drawings and is expelled from school for stealing. Benjamin is urged by his older brother Duncan (Thomas Haden Church), an accountant, to start living his life again. In his desperation to turn the lives of his kids and himself around, Benjamin begins house hunting. He visits a property and immediately holds an attachment to it. What he discovers is that the property is actually a struggling zone. Seeing how attracted Rosie is to the land herself, Benjamin becomes the new owner. With the help of a number of workers, including Kelly (Scarlett Johansson) and her niece Lily (Elle Fanning), Benjamin looks to use his own finances to reopen the zoo. Yet the tension with his son, who has been extremely reluctant about moving, still remains.


You would have to be some kind of scrooge to dislike this movie. It is safe, entirely predictable and sugary but then again it's not really for you. It is for the families on Boxing Day too smart to involve themselves with the horses of war. Colour me surprised, and this is really the film's only surprise, but here is a family movie that doesn't rely on obvious humour and idiotic slapstick comedy. It's a true story, transported from the South West of England in real life to America for the film, and anyone who isn't a cynic is welcome to this. For the adults it is more complex than a lot of light family entertainment and I think that's why I enjoyed it so much. This apparent complexity stems from Matt Damon's amusing and soulful performance. This guy has matured so much in the last few years, separating himself from a still-Bourne action star, into an extremely versatile actor. He's playing a genuinely nice character here, who is in equal measure, frustrated and desperate to help his family. This comes through a lot of the humour and gentle-nudging in the film, as he tries and generally fails to blend in, embarrassing himself because he is out of comfort zone. He's genuine funny and brings so much feeling to this character that he somehow makes you understand why he was so impulsive in the first place. Although many of the film's conflicts are resolved too easily, Benjamin's isolation from his wife and his search for renewal is, for the most part, sympathetic and touching. I thought his chemistry with Elizabeth Jones was just about perfect too. Some of the best scenes in the film are with them alone because they have such a warm, inseparable relationship. She's just an adorable little actresses, with just the right amount of input. Some child stars overplay their hand. You notice this kid for the right reasons. I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of Duncan too, someone who has been adventurous himself but was left unsatisfied and doesn't want his brother to fall into the same trap. His relationship with Benjamin, which has its share of funny moments too, makes sense. For small children this is a visually warm film, with so many different animals that you can forgive the omission of a petting zone. I think the message of this film is also refreshing. Some of the dialogue is sugar-coated too thickly with lines like, 'The secret to talking is to listen'. Yet the idea of taking a risk, or as the film puts it, 'Twenty-seconds of courage', instead of the usual balderdash about being yourself, feels refreshing and anew. If you're choosing between this and the Chipmunks these holidays just remember which film has a chimp in a zookeeper uniform.  






 
 



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