Arguably this might not be Cameron Crowe's best efforts at filmmaking. What this film succeeded in was serving us a good dosage of heart-warming sincerity that would bring us back down to earth and appreciate things as they were. Aiming right at the family audience group, the wide variety of characters ranging from a cranky old zookeeper to a naive seven year-old set a worthy example of cohesive domestic values.
Acclaimed filmmaker Cameron Crowe (“Jerry Maguire”) directs a funny and uplifting story about finding joy, the power of family, and the triumph of hope. A widowed father buys a dilapidated zoo in hopes of making a fresh start. While facing enormous odds involved in running a zoo and keeping it open, he must also deal with the trials of everyday life in raising a young family. Based on a true story.
Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson may be starring in "We Bought a Zoo", but this wasn't your usual fare of Hollywood romantic comedy scam (although there's a plot thread on a predictable romance between them).
Allow me to elaborate on what I'd just mentioned. Typically, a film makes use of certain healthy values like friendships and family bonds to ultimately lead to the locking of lips and embracing of a lead couple. Thus, it was a pleasant surprise to see how this film was more than just that. No, it wasn't just about the animals (yes they're supporting characters, but no), it was really about the other characters that made the difference.
One whom especially caught my attention was the adorable Rosie (played by the extremely talented Elizabeth Maggie Jones). Do not be deceived by her tiny statute of a seven year-old, she's very matured and talented for her age. She would be my idea of a rising child star to watch out for. Coincidentally, she was also the first person who sprouted the film's title in the film.
"We Bought a Zoo" was based upon a true story of Benjamin Mee (yes, there's an actual living Benjamin who actually bought a broken zoo and not just played by Matt Damon) who attempted to infuse change and a fresh breath of new air to "reboot" both the failed zoo and his family.
In this film, no doubt there's a lot of questionable idealism threading on very thin ice. We see how Benjamin easily agrees to footing hefty bill payments deriving from the zoo's up-keeping with merely his life savings. All in the name of instilling a whole new conducive environment for his two children Dylan (played by Colin Ford) and Rosie to grow up in.
Believing in an education and childhood beyond academics, we indeed manage to experience none of the scholarly values and were immersed deeply in the wild where animals and civilisation meet. So while these decisions were idealistic in nature, what we get from Crowe was a satisfying great sense of honesty and sincerity.
There's nothing pretentious around, besides perhaps the seemingly well-trained monkey. The lion roared loud and ferociously (it actually startled me during one of such scenes), the grizzly bear stormed and punched vigorously with its paws. It's not Zookeeper, mind you.
Dylan was very disturbed and to a certain extent, autistic and kept woes to himself. While not receptive to the optimistic changes proposed by Benjamin, he remained adamant all the way till the end where it exploded in a furious climax between the both of them, which till date remained one of the more moving emotional conflict climax in cinema.
Of course, not forgeting to mention how Damon spearheaded the entire film with his veteran good acting signature and made the film a lot more interesting and unpredictable (partly due to Benjamin's adventurous personality). Also, how Elle Fanning (whom you might recall from Super 8) had grown to become an alluring screen presence despite her tender age of thirteen (her physique doesn't look her age either).
"We Bought a Zoo" was not only an easy watch at the cinemas, it's also one of the more sincere family genres produced of recent. You would likely find yourself mildly smiling at the little nothings generated from the cast ensemble. This might not be Crowe's better efforts, but it's good to see him back to making films.