Heather's DVD Review: We Bought a Zoo
Is it possible to move on from a devastating loss by doing something completely risky? That's the underlining premise behind the DVD release of We Bought a Zoo, which had some familiar but very strong results nonetheless.
We Bought a Zoo followed a writer/adventure seeker Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) who was looking for a way to help his family cope with the loss of his wife from a devastating illness. He quits his job and made the risky move of purchasing a house in the country that included a zoo with the property. The Zoo hasn't been operation in years, but that didn't stop Benjamin with the desire to see his family whole again. His younger daughter Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) loved the idea, but his moody teenager son Dylan (Colin Ford) hated it from the start. Dylan's contentious relationship with his father was also a thorny issue for the Mees as they tried to move on. Benjamin's brother Duncan (Thomas Haden Church) warned him that the costly renovations would greatly impact his finances in the way he didn't have in mind. Benjamin started to rely on his new staff members, such as newly promoted zookeeper Kelly Foster (Scarlett Johansson) and the wildly passionate Peter MacCready (Angus Macfadyen). Kelly and Benjamin started developing a close relationship as they worked together to revive the zoo after some setbacks came their way. Dylan also started to bond with Kelly's cousin Lily Miska (Elle Fanning), which he wasn't prepared until it was almost too late. Can the Mee family get on track long enough to get the zoo opened on time?
In terms of plot, We Bought a Zoo had a solid foundation that was based on a similiarly true story about a family who still runs their home/zoo to this day. The story had the perfect mix of emotion, comedy and drama to keep audiences interested. The surprising thing was that the movie was virtually ignored during its big screen release. In a way, it would make sense that some movies would get lost during the Christmas Holiday movie shuffle, but it shouldn't have been this Cameron Crowe directed movie. Sadly, it was simply a case of poor movie release timing that was Zoo's box office undoing. Nothing on the part of Crowe or the cast. Zoo had the makings of Crowe's classic films, such as Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous. It had a wide array of classic rock songs that many viewers have grown up and can introduce to their children, such as Tom Petty among the mix. Crowe's storytelling formula also followed a main character, man or woman, looking to start over after some devastating loss. Some comedic situations came about as a result and a new love interest soon resurfaced, like Renee Zellweger in Jerry Maguire. The format might be familiar, but Crowe knows how to design his movies like a well oiled machine without making his films appear to be stiff products of Hollywood's sleek marketing.
In terms of acting, Damon gave a touching performance as a grieving widower who loved his wife deeply, but he struggled to relate to his children. Initially, the role of Benjamin seemed like a huge departure for Damon who usually played parts that were no near so relatable (Jason Bourne and the Ocean's film series). He seemed to draw mainly from his off-screen role as a father to help make Benjamin's dilemma more grounded for viewers. The audience could genuinely believe that Damon could pass for a father lost in his own grief and struggling to climb out of his despair long enough to help his children. Damon's most memorable scene was towards the end of the movie when he had a quiet moment to stare at his laptop of photos of his late wife, which allowed his character to fully deal with his wife's death. Johannson provided ample support as the attractive but passionate about animals Kelly, but her part was merely designed as a tool to help Damon's character come out of his shell and nothing more. The movie's real find Jones' performance as the adorable and wise Rosie who provided some of the movie's most memorable scene stealing moments. Let's hope that moviegoers will see more of her sooner rather than later.
Verdict: A touching story about love, loss and some adorable zoo animals.
DVD Score: 3 out of 5 stars
Movie Rating: PG
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)