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Carl the Critic: Reviews "We Bought a Zoo"

Updated on November 13, 2012

"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.

What about you?

If you saw "We Bought a Zoo", what did you think?

See results

Carl the Critic ©2011 HubPages


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    • CarltheCritic1291 profile image

      Carl 3 years ago

      LOL thank you for your comment Dana! I appreciate it!

    • profile image

      Dana 3 years ago

      I probably would have liked this movie but because it blew the whole Easter Bunny thing with my 7 year old, now I totally hate this movie. Thanks a lot, Hollywood!

    • profile image

      Owen 5 years ago

      What was the song playing when dylan got expelled for stealing

    • profile image

      Rteese 5 years ago

      Its 'Don't Come Around Here No More" by Tom Petty

    • profile image

      max kisser 5 years ago

      can anyoine help me....what song is playing when the son gets expelled????!!!

    • CarltheCritic1291 profile image

      Carl 6 years ago

      O_O I want a zoo. lol Matt Damon was definitely better in this film than in films past, I felt there were a few moments of blandness here and there, but better than "Contagion" (where he was bland-tastic). I agree mini Fanning was good too (all the actors were), but I really liked Rosie the best.

      Thanks again for stopping by (I want a zoo, can I partner with ya :P jk lol). Thanks for you support and comments

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      My husband and I saw the movie today Carl and we now want to buy a zoo! No joke!!:) Matt Damon was outstanding, noting like in Contagion...he made me cry! Mini-Fanning was adorable and so much like her sister Dakota! A wonderful supporting cast. The 13 yr old was a bit forward. Just sayin! I thought of you with a few parts such as the Easter Bunny! lol

      I have a few facebook friends who now want to be partners with me with a zoo! haha!

      Thank you for all the awesome reviews you create! You rock!!

    • CarltheCritic1291 profile image

      Carl 6 years ago

      Thanks Eddy, much appreciated :)

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      What an impressive review and thanks for sharing.

      An up up and away here.

      Take care


    • CarltheCritic1291 profile image

      Carl 6 years ago

      LOL you're welcome bethperry, and thank you for stopping by, voting, and commenting (and be warned, depending how old your kids are, Matt Damon basically says that "the Easter Bunny isn't real", which leads to a lot of questions like "THE EASTER BUNNY ISN'T REAL!?!")

    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 6 years ago from Tennesee

      I'm glad you posted this. My kids were asking to see it just so we could all go and throw popcorn at Matt Damon on the BIG screen. And I really hate blowing $7 a pop on tickets for just that when we can wait to see it at home and throw chips AND popcorn at him.

      Voting up -and thanks for the save! :)

    • CarltheCritic1291 profile image

      Carl 6 years ago

      lol Yeah, I guess because I wasn't really expecting it to be good I enjoyed it more. Thanks for stopping by tschaunerb, always good to hear from you.

    • tschaunerb profile image

      tschaunerb 6 years ago from Medicine Hat

      you had a really generous review of this film. Even though i am a huge cameron crowe fan, i think this movie was too soft and fluffy for my taste.

    • CarltheCritic1291 profile image

      Carl 6 years ago

      Thanks ITcoach, glad you liked the review :)

    • CarltheCritic1291 profile image

      Carl 6 years ago

      Ah yes, Matt Damon does get very political at times (which has gotten some people angry) but oh well, I agree he hasn't done too well lately as far as acting goes, but he was very good in "We Bought a Zoo" (though I still can't figure out why a man wouldn't realize right a way that a place that he is just buying has a zoo with it).

      Ben Affleck! lol Ah yes, he's actually doing well too (not as well as Matt but well all the same).

      Thanks for posting, it's great to hear from you :)

    • vmartinezwilson profile image

      Vanessa Martinez Wilson 6 years ago from Vancouver, WA

      Hey Carl, I used to be such a Matt Damon fan, but every time I see him in an interview promoting the movie, he spouts his political beliefs and wears atrocious clothes. I can't even get past the first few questions before I change the channel. he's such a good actor, but he hasn't pushed himself lately and I wonder if he'll ever get that mojo back. Back in the day, I used to talk smack about Ben Affleck and praise Matt Damon, but now I'm in opposite land.

      I probably won't see the movie in the near future, but I appreciate the review. It tells me everything I need to know about it when I eventually do.

    • CarltheCritic1291 profile image

      Carl 6 years ago

      @Sunshine625: LOL sounds like fun, your welcome Linda, and thanks again for stopping by, it's always great to hear from you :)

      @RealHousewife: Yes, I agree it does look like it would be a good one to watch with kids, BUT looks can be deceiving. You will find that at times there is a lot of kid friendly moments and then before you know it Matt Damon talks about the Easter Bunny not existing and then the little kids start asking "THE EASTER BUNNY ISN'T REAL!?!"

      Thanks for enjoying my review Kelly, glad you liked it, and it's always great to hear from you :)

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Hi Carl...I didn't see the movie but I enjoyed the review. I think it looks like a good one to watch with the kids. I had to LOL at the tear streaming down your cheek:) haha!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      HUH? How dare they mess with the Easter Bunny! I'll pass and take Faith to Chuck E Cheese instead! Thanks for the heads up Carl!

    • CarltheCritic1291 profile image

      Carl 6 years ago

      lol yeah, I still need to see the American version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", I just saw the Swedish version.

      As for your five year old granddaughter, there are some funny moments she might laugh at but the most important thing to note about the movie (if you plan to take small children to see it), is there's a scene where Matt Damon says that his daughter "still believes in the Easter bunny" (which when I was in the theater, there were about 5 kids who shouted "THE EASTER BUNNY ISN'T REAL!?!"), so just for fair warning, if you do take her to see it she might ask a lot of questions (I hope that answered yours about your granddaughter).

      Cameron Crowe is a good director, he did an okay job with this movie, definitely not his best.

      I'd say, wait until it comes out on a DVD and Bluray so you can rent it before you actually buy it.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, if you have other questions let me know :)

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Hmmmm. I was going to see this movie tomorrow but now I'm not so sure. I agree that Matt Damon was extremely weak in Contagion! His scenes were dull. I also questioned how someone wouldn't know they bought a zoo. Weird. My granddaughter wants to see it, she's 5 and I think she'll be bored. What do you think?

      My main reason for wanting to see it is because I'm a fan of the director Cameron Crowe:) One day.

      I did see Girl With The Dragon Tattoo yesterday ... 4 outta 5 stars!

      Thumbs up!