HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
 
Newest Reviews
Innocents, The
Beast and the Magic Sword, The
Last Hard Men, The
Found Footage Phenomenon, The
Night Trap
Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon
Benediction
Nezha Reborn
Evil Toons
Worst Person in the World, The
Whirlpool
Hunter Will Get You
Superman/Batman: Apocalypse
Revolver
Men, The
Parallel Mothers
Sadness, The
Bloody New Year
Faye
Body Count
Spider-Man: No Way Home
'Round Midnight
Wild Men
Barry & Joan
Wake Up Punk
Twin, The
Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy
One of These Days
Lift to the Scaffold
Savage Dawn
Rest in Pieces
Innocents in Paris
We're All Going to the World's Fair
Beyond the Door 3
Jules et Jim
Love Jones
Saint-Narcisse
Souvenir Part II, The
Knockabout
400 Blows, The
   
 
Newest Articles
La Violence: Dobermann at 25
Serious Comedy: The Wrong Arm of the Law on Blu-ray
DC Showcase: Constantine - The House of Mystery and More on Blu-ray
Monster Fun: Three Monster Tales of Sci-Fi Terror on Blu-ray
State of the 70s: Play for Today Volume 3 on Blu-ray
The Movie Damned: Cursed Films II on Shudder
The Dead of Night: In Cold Blood on Blu-ray
Suave and Sophisticated: The Persuaders! Take 50 on Blu-ray
Your Rules are Really Beginning to Annoy Me: Escape from L.A. on 4K UHD
A Woman's Viewfinder: The Camera is Ours on DVD
Chaplin's Silent Pursuit: Modern Times on Blu-ray
The Ecstasy of Cosmic Boredom: Dark Star on Arrow
A Frosty Reception: South and The Great White Silence on Blu-ray
You'll Never Guess Which is Sammo: Skinny Tiger and Fatty Dragon on Blu-ray
Two Christopher Miles Shorts: The Six-Sided Triangle/Rhythm 'n' Greens on Blu-ray
Not So Permissive: The Lovers! on Blu-ray
Uncomfortable Truths: Three Shorts by Andrea Arnold on MUBI
The Call of Nostalgia: Ghostbusters Afterlife on Blu-ray
Moon Night - Space 1999: Super Space Theater on Blu-ray
Super Sammo: Warriors Two and The Prodigal Son on Blu-ray
Sex vs Violence: In the Realm of the Senses on Blu-ray
What's So Funny About Brit Horror? Vampira and Bloodbath at the House of Death on Arrow
Keeping the Beatles Alive: Get Back
The Punk Rock Movie: Out of the Blue on Blu-ray
Yeah, Too Quiet: The Great Silence on Blu-ray
   
 
  We Bought a Zoo Like the animals, love the people
Year: 2011
Director: Cameron Crowe
Stars: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Colin Ford, Maggie Elizabeth Jones, Angus MacFadyen, Elle Fanning, Patrick Fugit, John Michael Higgins, Carla Gallo, J.B. Smoove, Stephanie Szostak
Genre: Comedy, Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 3 votes)
Review: Daredevil journalist and grieving widower Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) seizes a chance to start a new life along with his kids, troubled teenager Dylan (Colin Ford) and adorable seven year old Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) when he buys a house with a zoo in need of renovation. Head zookeeper Kelly (Scarlett Johansson) is at first sceptical about Benjamin’s intentions but soon warms to his soft-spoken resilience, sincerity and decency. Meanwhile, her young cousin Lily (Elle Fanning) takes an instant shine to sulky Dylan. This dysfunctional family must overcome their personal problems if they are to restore the zoo, pass the all-important inspection and re-open its doors before Benjamin faces financial ruin.

Based on the like-named book penned by British journalist Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo is undeniably a case where an earthier true story has been seeped in a Hollywood gloss. For one thing, in real life the Scarlett Johansson character was a bloke and, one presumes, not the love interest. Nevertheless, dramatic license aside, this endearingly upbeat and uplifting movie marks an engaging return to form for divisive writer-director Cameron Crowe after his disastrously self-indulgent flop Elizabethtown (2005). The fantasy of living in your own zoo is one shared by many a youngster and grownup dreamer alike (which, to be honest, includes this writer) as encapsulated in little Rosie’s jubilant “yay!” upon hearing the news, but Crowe wisely steers his film away from simple saccharine wish-fulfilment towards more insightful human drama. In this he is ably served by an impeccable turn from Matt Damon who ennobles the film with his affecting study of wounded masculinity. The scene where Benjamin shifts between sadness and joy recalling happier times with his wife and children lingers long in the memory.

Human interaction rather than human-animal interaction proves the true focus of the film as both Benjamin and Dylan reawakened to the possibilities of a wide, welcoming world thanks to life-affirming romances with warm-hearted women. If there is a weak link, it is that surly Dylan tips too far from troubled teenager into simply charmless, with Colin Ford gamely struggling but outclassed by a radiant Elle Fanning. Only in movies do beautiful, fascinating girls prove so patient with awkward, self-absorbed boys. Elsewhere, Crowe plays to his strengths crafting vivid comic characters and exuding that familiar warmth for human foibles that characterises his best work. He retains his eye for the poetic moments that make life worth living and his ear for the perfect soundtrack to match, employing Sigur Ros musician Jónsi to supply a haunting score complemented by his usual well-chosen selection of pop tunes.

Occasionally the film overreaches, twisting a simple story in the direction of not only family drama but social allegory, romantic comedy of both teen and twenty-something variety, Capra-esque fable and, oh yes, the story of some nice folks who bought a zoo. If not always successful its ambitions remain laudable. At its best, We Bought a Zoo is a lyrical meditation on the nature of loss and how people united in a noble endeavour can inspire, uplift and bring out the best in each other. That the film achieves without sentimentalizing nature, according the animals their respect while acknowledging their undeniable charm is also an achievement worth celebrating. It also gives Scarlett Johansson her best role in years. The star, who famously eschewed makeup here revealing her natural beauty, rises to the challenge with an ingratiating performance. Of the likeable supporting cast, it is nice to see Patrick Fugit, formerly Crowe’s alter-ego in Almost Famous (2000), back onscreen as a zoo staffer with a capuchin monkey perpetually perched on his shoulder. Angus MacFadyen essays the familiar role of comedy Scot while Thomas Haden Church is welcome as Benjamin’s wisecracking older brother. But along with these veteran players even the animals are overshadowed by angelic child actress Maggie Elizabeth Jones who steals every scene.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 2986 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 

Cameron Crowe  (1957 - )

American writer/director of mainstream comedy/drama. Crowe made his name as Rolling Stone magazine's youngest reporter during the 1970s, and scripted the energetic high school romp Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Made his directing debut in 1989 with the romantic comedy Say Anything..., followed by the grunge relationship movie Singles and the Tom Cruise-starrer Jerry Maguire. Almost Famous was Crowe's semi-autobiographical rock n' roll road movie, while Vanilla Sky, his remake of the Spanish Open Your Eyes, was an unusually arty Hollywood thriller. Crowe then went on to the disastrous, quirk-filled romance Elizabethtown, but his fans have faith in his recovery.

 
Review Comments (1)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Andrew Pragasam
Mary Sibley
  Desbris M
  Sheila Reeves
Darren Jones
Paul Smith
Enoch Sneed
   

 

Last Updated: