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    January 17, 2012

    MOVIE REVIEW: WE BOUGHT A ZOO

    WE BOUGHT A ZOO (U)

    Genre: Family/Drama/Comedy
    Release Date: 22 December 2011 (but watched on 7 January 2011)
    Running Time: 124 minutes
    Distributor: 20th Century Fox
    Director: Cameron Crowe
    Screenplay: Cameron Crowe, Aline Brosh McKenna
    Starring: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Colin Ford, Elle Fanning, Angus McFadden, Maggie Elizabeth Jones

    Plot: This holiday season, acclaimed filmmaker Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous) directs an amazing and true story about a single dad who decides his family needs a fresh start, so he and his two children move to the most unlikely of places: a zoo. With the help of an eclectic staff, and with many misadventures along the way, the family works to return the dilapidated zoo to its former wonder and glory. REVIEWS AFTER THE JUMP

    Review: Last year, I saved no face for ‘The Zookeeper’ as I trashed it down rotten in the top ten worst of 2011. Fortunately, that painful experience with the dead in the pan zoo-drama did not prevent me from taking another story that has every common perspective regarding to zoo. I welcome ‘We Bought A Zoo’ into the new year with so much confidently that it will be better and more enjoyable from that thud. ‘We Bought A Zoo’, a new offering from director Cameron Crowe whose dramas like ‘Vanilla Sky’ and ‘Elizabethtown’ were not exactly going well with the critics. Nevertheless, can this movie redeemed some of Crowe’s golden touch as we have seen in ‘Almost Famous’ and ‘Jerry Maguire’, or we may have to live another day to wait for his return?


    No, you don’t have to wait for that other days to come. As much as I did not give so much of my priority and anticipation to this family drama at first, ‘We Bought A Zoo’ turns out to be chirping in not only as a promising feel good movie that tells the situation of certain degree of weirdness, it engages some sentimental and devotion values for family audiences as well. It does not go on repeating the same mistakes of having bubbly plot like Crowe’s last two major efforts; instead we are offered with some great candy-moment and decently perceived genuine emotion storyline to deal with.

    In this movie, Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) is a widower that must overcome the struggle to balance between job and family following the death of his wife. Facing his son’s expulsion from the school, Benjamin decides to quit his job and take the whole family into a new life. While still bogged down by the memory of his deceased wife, Benjamin takes an unusual move by purchasing a large house with a zoo in the backyard outside the city skid. The decision delights his 7-year old daughter, Rosie Mee (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) but upsets his rebellious son, Dylan Mee (Colin Ford) who refuses to accept the reality succumbing him. With Benjamin becomes the director of the zoo, he must race against the time to save the zoo and the animals before the scheduled inspection.


    For family dramas, they can be disguising in some cutesy-lovely affair to fool you. Not for this one. ‘We Bought A Zoo’ is a simple account of great use of those elements piling up in place just nice. It is one of the most heartwarming and delighting movies of the season. It also makes use of the characters well by blending them into the structural plot. Essentially, the movie plays around the theme of family bond while displaying the grief surrounding the Mee family. While at times, the movie get a little too tearful showing the tenses in the family, Crowe does not allowed it to get dragged and overused, rather he constantly tilt the audience back to the main issue revolving the zoo. He keeps it tidy and controls it well.

    Matt Damon plays the central character sympathetically, attracting all sorts of pain he immersed due to the death of his wife, a feeling equally shared by his rebellious son. Damon is a fantastic actor and he seems comfortable doing this compared to voicing Happy Feet Two (words!). It’s decent to see how young actors; Colin Ford, Ella Fanning and Maggie Elizabeth Jones doing well in this film. All three embodies different stereo-arch of the teenagers today (kids included) and I would say that they did their job well. Scarlett Johansson is rather awkwardly placed as the zookeeper, but she essentially does more than been another eye-candy to the movie. She serves her purpose to the movie well. Thomas Haden Church delivers some comical relief to the movie, which is a good thing because he constantly motivate Damon’s character and helps him to hold on the world. In some dimension, I think this movie has a strong brand of ensemble casting.


    My only problem or rather problems; would have been Crowe sort of making this movie into just another standard Disney production. It lays simple plot but I also cannot help to notice how cliché it would be. It is not so challenging to put one trouble son, one upbeat daughter and one dilemma father into a scene, what we missing is the mother who bonds them all together. Perfect but it’s an overused formula, a deadly poison which potentially kills it from been an absolute amazing drama. There are a lot of things in the movie comes predictable, hence the element of surprise isn’t a strong brand for this movie.

    It could have been cliché and predictable to some extent, but ‘We Bought A Zoo’ works well because it knows how to make one feels for the grief of the central characters. It works because it knows how to make use of its strong ensemble casting. It works because the movie delivers an emotional plot that hinges with heartwarming elements for the movie. May not be the best thing we have seen but it worth a dime for sentimental and cloying moment.

    MY RATING:
    Story: 3.5
    Casts: 4.0
    Cinematography: 4.0
    Effects: 3.0
    GREEN-TEA-O-METER: 14.7/20.0
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