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We Bought a Zoo

We Bought a Zoo

Released 16 March 2012
Director Cameron Crowe

Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Colin Ford, Maggie Elizabeth Jones, Angus MacFadyen, Elle Fanning

Aline Brosh McKenna, Cameron Crowe

Julie Yorn, Cameron Crowe, Rick Yorn
Origin United States
Running Time 124 minutes
Genre Comedy, drama, family
Rating PG

A family day out.

At one point Matt Damon describes the sequence of events in We Bought a Zoo as having an authentic American adventure. And throughout the film We Bought a Zoo promotes itself as exactly that albeit in the strange set piece of a failing zoo. But it really isn’t selling The American Dream rather a fading hope in a time where many are pinching their pennies but a man (Matt Damon) takes the dubiously fiduciary step of buying a moneypit property plus assorted animals and somehow inevitably it all works out.

Essentially it sells us everything It’s a Wonderful Life does minus the overhanging threat of Jimmy Stewart’s attempted suicide; pull together, believe in community and things will work out (despite those nasty bankers).

Matt Damon, an adventure junkie journalist spends his life living through borrowed experience, extreme sport, killer bees and revolutionaries. But when his wife dies and he is left alone raising two school age children he begins to find it hard to cope. His young daughter, a creation that exists only in the movies, has equal parts the wisdom of Buddha and the cuteness of Minnie Mouse. While his obviously troubled son spends his time sketching Hieronymus Bosch like creations in a notebook which leads his father to comment, "If Charles Manson needed a personal muralist you’d be the guy".

But when his son is expelled from school the family seeks new horizons. Enter a failing zoo and hardworking but likeable zoohand Scarlet Johannsen. Matt Damon must get his newly bought zoo up to standard before a big inspection zoo with the help of an assorted band of quirky characters while bringing his family back from the brink of grief.

A schmaltzy film that didn’t manage to charm me begrudgingly or not but will be a pleasant inoffensive trip to the cinema for you and the kids.

- Cormac O’Brien