Carl the Critic: Reviews "We Bought a Zoo"
"We Bought a Zoo" Poster
After “True Grit” and “Contagion”, I was getting worried about Matt Damon. In both movies, he pulled off performances that were weak and bland, and I was hoping against hope that he may just prove to me to be wrong. After watching sneak peeks of his latest film, “We Bought A Zoo”, my heart sank, as if there was a lead weight weighing it down with the feeling of dread. In the sneak peek I watched, the jokes were horrible, Matt Damon had the same bland acting, and the title of the movie sounded lame. I starred blankly at “The Bourne Ultamatum” Poster hanging in my room. A warm tear rolled down my cheek, and I felt a lump in my throat, as I tried to remember better times with Matt Damon.
One minute later, I went online to start my review of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Review when suddenly my curiosity got the better of me. I started doing research on “We Bought a Zoo”; I recalled that the sneak peek said, “it was based on a true story”. The actual story was indeed interesting, but do I dare see it? In the end I did, with low expectations.
When I left the theater, I was glad I saw it.
The film focuses on Benjamin Mee (played by Matt Damon), a writer whose wife died, and is constantly reminded of her from every place in the town he lives in. In addition to that, his son Dylan (played by Colin Ford) is expelled from school for stealing money (and for his art project, a mural that would make even Charles Manson cringe), and a daughter Rosie (played by Maggie Elizabeth Jones) who can’t sleep because of the noisy neighbors. For Benjamin, (in addition to quitting his job) this gives him the perfect excuse to move to some place else. His daughter finds a house with 18 acres of land, and for some reason doesn’t seem to notice that it is a zoo… Now that makes you wonder, doesn’t it? How does he not know it’s a zoo until he hears a lion roaring outside the house? Wouldn’t there be a notice on the information sheet that says, “this house has one kitchen, three bathrooms, four bed rooms, a zoo, and a garage.” After seeing his daughter playing with the peacocks, Benjamin decides to buy the zoo (which was faster than in the real life story, where it took the real Benjamin Mee almost two years). Dylan doesn’t like this at all, because he is a teen-aged boy, and that means that if he moves he wont see his friends ever again, so he throws a hissy fit, goes to his room and draws more demonic pictures in his sketchbook.
Duncan Mee, (played by Thomas Haden Church) Benjamin’s older brother, keeps telling him that he can’t run a zoo, and that he shouldn’t run a zoo (and he does this from the first-third of the film to the nine-tenths of the film). Afterwards, we are introduced to the head zookeeper, Kelly Foster (played by Scarlett Johansson), and her team (including Elle Fanning who’s job in the movie is to make Dylan look like an asshole). We learn that the zoo has been throw zookeeper after zookeeper, and that Kelly’s job is to bitch at Benjamin about “why did he buy a zoo?” There is a zoo inspector (played by John Michael Higgins) who is an asshole with a mechanical measuring tape (which looks strangely like he’s hinting that he’s getting an erection by the way he looks at Kelly with a creepy stare).
Overall, the story has many different subplots, and themes involving accepting the death of a loved one and learning to move on, a relationship between father and son, insane courage takes twenty seconds, the Easter bunny isn’t real, don’t be an asshole, always check sweater pockets of your dead loved ones because there might be a receipt for $86,000 in the bank that they want you to have because they knew you were going to buy a zoo (or do something else that was just as stupid), and that if you love the girl who works at the zoo restaurant you better tell her.
So, when I went into the theater, my expectations were very low, and thank God they were otherwise I would have been disappointed. There was a lot of editing errors, such as a scene when Benjamin is at the Zoo’s bar with the zoo workers, and one is throwing darts at a picture of the Zoo Inspector’s face. The Zoo Worker clearly threw three or four darts, but suddenly when he goes to take it off, there’s an extra one that magically appeared. Earlier, when Benjamin and Rosie are checking out the Zoo house, Benjamin tells Rosie to “look” at something out of her window, but instead of cutting to what she was looking at the camera cuts to a POV shot of the bumper of the car (which was weird, she clearly was looking at a tree outside her window, not the house).
But those are just minor editing errors that people will either not notice or care about, what about the acting? The characters? How were they? All the acting in the movie was actually not that bad, Matt Damon’s performance was not as bad as I feared it would be (but there were moments of blandness here and there). If there were ever a reason to see “We Bought a Zoo”, it would be to see the little actress who plays Rosie. Her character is so cute, and she has the best lines of the movie. The character of Dylan is a different story, (Colin Ford is a good actor, and played him well, but maybe a little too well) because he is an asshole in this movie. He starts off unlikeable, and then is made out to be a disturbed little boy, and then he’s an asshole again, but later transitions into a sweeter person whose artistic talent changes from dark, satanic, post-apocalyptic images to a picture of a tiger (which becomes the zoo’s official logo). At the very beginning of the movie, I just really hate Dylan, and for the first two-thirds of the film he was a very dislikable character, and even though he changes into a much better person, I still didn’t like him because the damage was done.
Speaking of things that were bad in the first two-thirds of the film, the music was a mess. There was a scene where we learn for the first time that Benjamin’s wife is dead, and instead of beings a subtle, serious score, it was uplifting, and happy. It’s like if the movie “Jaws” played the theme song to “Happy Days” every time the Shark was around, it just doesn’t work. Sometimes the music was okay, but there were too many instances when the music was too happy at times when the scene was supposed to be serious.
Is this a good movie? I wouldn’t say that, but it wasn’t really a bad movie either. This was a cute movie, not really bad enough to be a horrible movie, but just enough to be enjoyed by some people. Rosie is the main reason I enjoyed the film, and forgave the flaws that were in it, and the other actors were really great as well. The movie is two hours and four minutes long, so unless you think that you can forgive a movie for minor flaws, I’d say wait for this to come out on DVD or Bluray or Netflix or Red Box or iTunes, so you can rent it and see for yourself.
I can say that I really enjoyed the film a lot, so much in fact that I initially gave it an 8.0 out of 10, but then I though that wasn’t right. So I decided to give the film a 7.8 out of 10.
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Carl the Critic ©2011 HubPages
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