Victoria Jelinek

We Bought a Zoo

Six months after his wife dies, Benjamin (Matt Damon) quits his job at an LA newspaper and takes his two kids to live in a crumbling country house with a dilapidated zoo attached. Despite his knowing little about zoos, Benjamin decides to rejuvenate and re open it with the help of the unpaid zookeeper Kelly (Scarlett Johansson).

The movie is based on a true story. Directed and co-written by Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous), with screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada), the film reflects McKenna’s sense of workplace comedy and Crowe’s emotional scope. While there are some problems: it’s blander than Crowe’s previous work, there are a few moments that are too sentimental, and the storyline between the father and his son is too easily ‘fixed’, it’s a good film. It’s authentic enough to feel for the characters and their stories; it provides a few positive existential messages, such as why ask yourself ‘why?’ Instead, ask yourself, ‘why not?’ and it reminds us that life is as an adventure worth having precisely because of its ups and downs. Ultimately, Crowe’s particular tone of voice, his talent for finding the poetry in everyday life, his ability to construct a poignant atmosphere with likeable characters, and his skill with actors (Matt Damon is good as an ‘everyman’ here, allowing a paunch and his age to show) are all evident here. This is a light, feel-good movie (Thomas Haden Church is hilarious!) with some worthwhile themes and a great soundtrack.