Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good hearted movie that grows on you by the end.
Cons: Predictable, slow to pull you in
The Bottom Line:
Grows on you the more you watch
With smiles by the end
Predictable but Ultimately Charming Movie of Healing
Sometimes, when a movie crosses my radar, it takes me a while to actually watch it. That was the case with We Bought a Zoo. I’d always been curious to watch it, but it wasn’t until recently that I finally sat down to do so. (And let’s not discuss how long it sat on my DVR before I did.) I’m glad I finally made that time.
This movie is inspired by a true story (which probably means they kept the names and basic idea the same). It tells the story of the Mee family. When we meet them, it’s been six months since their wife and mother died, and they are struggling to move on. Hardest hit seems to be son Dylan (Colin Ford) who has finally crossed the line and been kicked out of school. On top of that, father Benjamin (Matt Damon) has quit his job.
Hoping a new house will help them start over, Benjamin goes out house hunting with his seven-year-old daughter Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones). Way out in the country, they find the perfect house. The only catch? The zoo in the backyard comes with it. Benjamin doesn’t care, and he buys it, figuring he can get the zoo ready to reopen by the summer with the help of the very small staff. Can they do it? Or will Benjamin run out of money before they do?
Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you that this film breaks any new ground. It doesn’t. You can probably guess where this is going to go based on what I already described. And yet, it works. Oh, a few things seem to happen rather abruptly as we neared the end, but I didn’t mind too much. It was a very powerful film ultimately filled with hope as the family comes together.
That’s not to say it was good all the way through. The beginning seemed a bit rough. I’m not sure how they could have eased us into the story differently, but it took me a bit of time to get into it. While this is billed as a comedy and drama, the only part I found that was supposed to be truly funny was the visits by the inspector played by John Michael Higgins. Notice I said supposed to be. Instead of actually being funny, I found them awkward, as if they were piped in from a different movie.
Outside of that character, I found all the acting to be good. (And, honestly, I’m sure that John Michael Higgins was following the direction he was given, it was just a poor choice for the film. Maggie Elizabeth Jones was absolutely adorable as the daughter. Colin Ford made his early teen into a believable young man. Matt Damon kept a few scenes from becoming too cheesy. Other members of the cast include Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church (who had to grow on my a bit but was great by the end), and Elle Fanning. They were all fantastic as well.
In the end, I was okay with not rushing out to see this film. But I also don’t regret watching it. We Bought a Zoo grows on you as you watch, and you’ll find you enjoyed it when it is over.