Friday, March 8, 2013

We Bought A Zoo

Movie Review : We bought A Zoo
Director : Cameron Crowe
Genre : Drama
Starring : Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson
Released : 2011
My Rating : 5 out of 10

I have a bias towards movies based on real life stories. Reality is not only stranger than fiction, it can also be more uplifting, and sometimes more traumatic. This movie is loosely based on the true story of Benjamin Mee who bought a zoo in England and wrote a book about it.

In the movie, Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) is in California, and a widower who is trying his best to take care of his two children. The daughter is too young and is attached to her dad, but the son is having a hard time getting over the loss of his mother. When he gets expelled out of the school, Benjamin decides a change might be better for all. He starts looking for a new house, and ends up buying one with a small zoo, just because the young daughter loves it. He has no idea what zoology is, and what kind of commitment it requires. In addition, the staff is running very low on morale. Benjamin desperately needs the zoo to be opened, but he has to first satisfy the demands of a tough inspector. To make matters worse, his relationship with his son gets more and more stressful.

This is a feel good movie, so we know Benjamin is eventually going to beat the odds, and everything is going to be fine. We just want to enjoy the ride, have a few good laughs and be genuinely happy for the characters. Benjamin is likeable, and we understand why he doesn’t want any more sympathy. We understand what his son is going through. The movie does a good job of setting the context, and then fails at convincing us how the problems got solved. We want to cheer for Benjamin and his team, but we never know when to cheer for them.

This is a huge problem with the script, and the direction by Cameron Crowe does not help. He has many successes under his belt, but this one feel like a halfhearted effort. The actors do a decent job with whatever material they have been given. The story has all the elements needed for making a fun, uplifting movie. Unfortunately it remains very flat and never rises above cliched, ineffective scenes.

I cannot recommend this movie. But it’s an OK movie to watch with the entire family. My guess would be that, no one is going to get really bored, but no one is going to love it either.

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