Published Dec 22, 2011After taking a six-year hiatus, Cameron Crowe returns to the director's chair with the unexpectedly warm, family-oriented We Bought A Zoo. At first glance, the film looks like a cheesy PG redux of Crowe's most well known effort, Jerry Maguire. And although We Bought A Zoo does feature an annoyingly cute kid, cheesy one-liners comparable to the cringe-worthy "You Complete Me" and is his least Crowe-like endeavour, it isn't unwelcome.
Loosely based on the personal memoirs of journalist Benjamin Mee, We Bought A Zoo takes place six months after the death of Mee's (Matt Damon) wife, with him caring for his troublemaking teenage son, Dylan (Colin Ford), and sweet seven-year-old daughter Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) in a clumsy manner.
After Dylan is expelled from school, Benjamin decides that the family needs a fresh start and makes the spontaneous decision to buy an abandoned zoo in the middle of nowhere with his late father's inheritance. The zoo is operated by a small group of unpaid, yet passionate, employees who tackle the seemingly impossible task of getting the zoo back up and running by the summer.
What follows is clichéd, but heart-warming journey as we watch an inexperienced Benjamin tackle the gruelling task of fixing the zoo, adapt to the slower-paced life, track down an escaped grizzly bear, battle depression, run away from porcupines and keep a 17-year-old dying tiger alive under the guidance of head zookeeper Kelly (Scarlett Johansson).
We Bought A Zoo may be riddled with plot holes and intoxicatingly cheesy moments, but it's also rife with bright, heartfelt, comical encounters between characters so winningly authentic and warm that it's hard not to excuse the script's predictable pitfalls.
We Bought A Zoo isn't brilliant by any means, but it is an uplifting tale of personal persistence overcoming the odds. It's a cathartic experience for anyone who understands the consuming grief that can encompass a family when somebody they love tragically dies, which is especially appreciated during the holidays. (Fox)