We Bought a Zoo (2011)
Rated – PG
Directed by Cameron Crowe
Starring: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church
A family drama is a complicated genre because unless it’s an animated feature from Pixar or Dreamworks, it’s a tough task to keep the attention of both children and adults. We Bought a Zoo is a family drama that suits adults much more than kids, but it’s still a family drama nonetheless. Aside from the animals in the zoo, there’s not much to hold the kids’ focus for this 2+ hour film, but for the adults, it’s entertaining and heart-warming.
Matt Damon plays Benjamin Mee, a single father because of the tragic death of his wife. He has two children, Dylan the rebellious son who has trouble communicating with his father and pours his emotion into his drawings; and Rosie, the cutest girl in the entire world who jumps for joy at the sight of the animals.
Two supporting characters really make an impact on Benjamin’s life: Duncan (Church), his brother and Kelly (Johansson) the zoo keeper. Duncan provides plenty of comic relief and also portrays the brother who speaks logic to his brother who seems to be acting on emotion. It doesn’t make sense to buy a house and a zoo when he doesn’t know anything about maintaining one. Even when Benjamin digs himself a hole and runs out of money, Duncan suggests he leaves the project after a good effort, but Benjamin is determined to see things through. Whether it’s for himself, for his kids, or maybe a bit of both, Benjamin places all of his chips in.
In the other corner, Kelly provides the passion for the animals and for rebuilding the zoo back up. She’s the emotional force behind the zoo and Benjamin feeds off of her enthusiasm and finds something he could help with in his quest to move forward without his wife. One of the things I truly enjoyed about this film is how Benjamin and Kelly’s relationship never blossomed to a distraction on screen. The story isn’t about Benjamin and Kelly finding each other romantically, it’s about the family working things out together in the means of the zoo.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable family drama with solid performances all around the cast. Based on a true story, the film deals with the loss of a loved one and a family trying to move on. It’s touching yet never tear-jerking during its most powerful moments, but it’s still a film that is a good watch for anyone.