Movie Review: We Bought A Zoo

Posted: December 29, 2011 in movie reviews, movies
Tags: , , , , , ,

I wasn’t expecting much from this movie. I knew it would be cute and endearing, but it turns out it was so much more. This movie was the perfect holiday treat.

We Bought A Zoo
Starring: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Elle Fanning, Thomas Haden Church, Colin Ford.

Premise: Benjamin Mee and his kids, Dylan and Rosie are trying to recover from the worst kind of tragedy possible. Benjamin has suddenly found himself a single father of a rebellious teenage son and adorable little girl. Trying to do everything he can to put them back together, he decides to relocate his family. He quickly finds the perfect house, well almost perfect, there’s one small defect, with the house comes a zoo. Benjamin takes on the zoo and all the renovation responsibilities hoping this will be the project that mends his broken family.

My Review: This movie caught my eye mostly because it was a family friendly movie. It was something I felt I could watch with my parents and not be embarrassed about anything in it. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. Sure it’s a Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire, Say Anything) movie, and sure Matt Damon is the star, but the movie is about a family who loses a parent and starts over by, well, buying a zoo. It has zoo animals, quirky zoo workers, and a too-cute little girl so I was prepared for cheese with a side of cheese. However, I was pleasantly surprised and even moved. This movie was the perfect holiday treat.


There’s something utterly relatable about the idea of starting over. Clean slates are so tempting and scary but sometimes the past is so strong you just have to get away. And that is exactly what Benjamin Mee does. He uproots his family and buys a zoo in hopes that his kids will be happy. His ideas are simple: Kids love animals = the animals will make the kids happy, the zoo needs fixing + his family needs fixing = fix the zoo, fix the family. Sounds easy in concept, but throughout the movie Benjamin finds out it’s easy to manipulate a cute 5 year old with animals, but not so much for his teenage son or the long time zoo workers worry once Benjamin fixed the family, he’ll abandon the zoo and them.

I think, Matt Damon was just the right actor to make this movie work. Damon has no real cheese-ball factor. He has the ability to seamlessly put himself into any character whether it’s an ass-kicking amnesiac (Bourne Identity), a lost-soul politician just looking for love (Adjustment Bureau), or a young quirky somewhat criminal, trying to prove himself (Oceans 11). You just believe the dude. He takes this movie seriously and doesn’t just chalk it up to getting a paycheck (See: Dwayne Johnson in Tooth Fairy, Eddie Murphy in Meet Dave). Also I feel when I watch Matt Damon, I’m not watching Matt Damon, I’m watching his character.


Overall, take Matt Damon, add some animals, a cute little girl, quirky characters, a sweet plot/story, and a really old tiger, shake lovingly, and you get We Bought A Zoo. It’ll give you warm fuzzies, make you laugh, and make you think up excuses for why your eyes are welling up. My excuse: The theater was really dusty.

Rating: 4 stars (I may be half a star generous for the holiday season)

Other Thoughts:

  • I didn’t hate Scarlett Johansson as much as I thought she would.
  • The scene between Colin Ford and Matt Damon really affected me in a strange (strange, but good) way.
  • Elle Fanning was awkward. Awkward but adorkable.
  • The only actor that was really over the top was Thomas Haden Church. Maybe it’s his voice, he just has one of those cheesy voices.




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