We Bought a Zoo (PG)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner16/03/2012

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 124 mins

Nicely written and featuring a great soundtrack, this is an unashamedly feel-good drama with terrific performances from a superb cast.

What's it all about?
Directed by Cameron Crowe, We Bought A Zoo is based on a (British) true story and stars Matt Damon as recently widowed father-of-two Benjamin Mee, who quits his job as a journalist and impulsively buys a rundown zoo, to the delight of his seven year old daughter Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) and the horror of both his teenage son Dylan (Colin Ford), and his world weary brother Duncan (Thomas Haden Church).

Aside from a collection of lions and tigers and bears (oh my), the zoo's menagerie of live-in zookeepers includes drop dead gorgeous Kelly (Scarlett Johansson), her impossibly cute younger sister Lily (Elle Fanning) and grouchy, hard-drinking Peter (Angus Macfadyen) and soon everybody is pitching in to get the zoo up and running to the satisfaction of beady-eyed jobsworth inspector Ferris (John Michael Higgins).

The Good
Matt Damon is terrific as perennial nice-guy Benjamin and he has strong, believable chemistry with both Maggie Elizabeth Jones (super-adorable as Rosie – expect to see her pop up in several more Cute Moppet-style roles from now on) and Colin Ford. There's also strong support from both Scarlett Johansson (who's maybe a little too gorgeous to be entirely credible here) and an effortlessly scene-stealing Elle Fanning (whose teen romance with Dylan is nicely handled), while Thomas Haden Church provides some welcome light relief as wise-cracking Uncle Duncan.

Crowe is no stranger to this sort of feel-good-tinged-with-sadness material and his instincts serve him well here, bolstered by his usual skill when it comes to soundtrack selection. As a result, he gets the tone exactly right throughout, never over-indulging on either the sadder moments or the sentimentality.

The Bad
The solid script commendably resists a central romance between Damon and Johansson (though it acknowledges the possibility) in favour of a more emotionally involving story about grief, moving on and the importance of new beginnings. As a result, the METAPHORS get a little heavy handed in places (particularly with the introduction of a sick tiger who may have to be put down) and you're never really in any doubt as to where the story is going, but it's an enjoyable enough journey nonetheless.

Worth seeing?
We Bought a Zoo is a well made, solidly written feelgood drama with superb performances from an engaging and likeable cast. If you are attempting to sell a zoo, now might be a good time to place that advert.

Film Trailer

We Bought a Zoo (PG)
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Content updated: 23/10/2017 19:38

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