Monday, December 26, 2011

We Bought A Zoo ★ ★★ ★

DVD Release Date: April 3, 2012.

Release Date Australia :  26th December 2011  Other countries


The trailer for We Bought a Zoo does not do this film justice. 
There should be a disclaimer after it, which reads: ‘This montage of one liners does not truly portray this film. We acknowledge we have made it seem ridiculously over-the-top schmaltzy.  In reality it is a well-crafted, beautifully acted and delivered piece of cinema.  You may suddenly find tears rolling down your cheeks when you least expect it. In fact, more than a few tears, a few times.  We hope our poor effort at promotion will not put you off a family movie you would really enjoy.’  Now that I have got that off my chest, on with the review.
What I like most about movies like this, is that they remind me of what is important in life.  Even if the wonderful idea, that family is everything, only stays with me for the five minutes it takes to get to the car—before the arguing starts about who sits where—then I say ‘good job’.
Okay, I am going to admit it—as a mother of two boys, nine and eleven, I sometimes hide from them.  The fighting, the whining, the constants demands are something that makes my brain fizzle and my temper rise quicker than the volcano in Journey to the Centre of the Earth. 
So, I’ll take anything that caps that feeling for a little while.
And when I attend a screening—especially in December where there is a preview every second day— expecting to experience a yawn fest of schmaltz I’m usually not in the mood to receive great messages of wisdom.  A side note, my husband and kids were also not excited to see this one either.
So, when We Bought A Zoo, which at first appears to be just another Hollywood formulaic movie, begins to weave its tale, I was surprised to find that none of our family were yawning.  We were surprisingly engaged.   Even in the first thirty minutes, it was clear this movie was turning into something special.  And I should have known because Cameron Crowe, the writer director, has managed this surprise before.
 If you asked me did I want to see movies on the following subjects, high school kid follows rock band to score an interview for Rolling Stone magazine (Almost Famous); sports agent develops a soul and falls in love (Jerry Maguire); selfish publisher goes on weird adventure after an accident (Vanilla Sky), I would have said, ‘Sounds OK but I don’t care if I miss them’.   Yet, they were all surprisingly enjoyable and I would have to say memorable, because I can still recall their plots years later.
We Bought A Zoo sounds average as far as plots go but the way it is told is anything but average.  Freelance adventure journalist, Benjamin Mee, a recently widowed Father to an obstinate and non-communicative teenager Dylan (Colin Ford) and adorable six year old Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) has had enough.  He decides they need to make a new start away from life’s stresses.
Whilst looking for houses, they come upon the perfect home with plenty of land and a large house.  But there’s a catch.  It also comes with a private zoo, run by a close knit and eclectic group of people led by head zoo keeper, Kelly Foster (Scarlett Johansson). 
Benjamin follows his own repetitive advice which will all make sense by the end of the movie—‘All you need is twenty seconds of insane courage’—and buys the zoo.  Looming over their heads, before they can reopen the zoo, is the zoo inspection by Walter Ferris (John Michael Higgins), a tough cookie who seems dead set against green lighting the place, as he happily hands out expensive renovation lists.
Amongst the inside look at the chaos of running a private zoo there is a drama with a sick tiger, teenage angst amidst first love, money worries, and wonderful lines delivered perfectly from little Maggie Elizabeth Jones. She is so adorable, that if asked I may have traded one of my own kids for her.
Probably one of the best lines in the film, delivered by Duncan Mee (Thomas Haden Church), Benjamin’s brother, is also the best way to describe why this film works so well.  ‘I like the animals but I love the humans,’ says Duncan.
We can all understand struggling with parenthood, friendship, loss and love and wanting something better for our family—it’s part of being human.   I love it when we hopeless humans are given a beautiful glimmer of hope. Even if it is only for the 124 minutes duration of a movie which inspires us enough, that we turn to our kids and say, ‘You drive me nuts but I love you.’
I promise you, if despite the bad trailer, you decide to brave seeing this movie something amazing will happen, you just might love the humans too.


  1. I wanted to see this one, now I REALLY want to check it out!!

  2. You won't be disappointed. Even when I was watching the trailer to write this review, I choked up for a minute and I saw the actual film weeks ago.

    Please comment back with your thoughts when you've seen it.

    Thank you for taking the time to read and posting a comment. I really appreciate it.

  3. Ditto - Hated the trailer (well, disliked it) - but now I'll give it a rental viewing. With you on the rundown on Cameron Criwe films... Thanks Susan