Reviewed by: Jeremy Landes
animals in the Bible
raising endangered animals
caring for a young family
Where did CANCER come from? Answer
How did bad things come about? Answer
Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer
What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer
Does God feel our pain? Answer
What kind of world would you create? Answer
|Featuring:||Scarlett Johansson … Kelly Foster
Matt Damon … Benjamin Mee
Elle Fanning … Lily Miska
Carla Gallo … Rhonda
Thomas Haden Church … Duncan Mee
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|Director:||Cameron Crowe—“Jerry Maguire”|
|Producer:||Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
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|Distributor:||Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation|
“based on a true story”
“We Bought a Zoo” is a family film. It has some profanity that makes it inappropriate for younger viewers. A widower father and his disturbed teenage son are portrayed as being in constant conflict. The death of a wife and mother overshadows the entire film. Yet, through all of this, you get to watch a family work hard together to fulfill a very noble goal that blesses their community. That’s rare and refreshing.
This film brought me to tears at numerous times, because the filmmakers worked hard to create believable characters (based on a true story), who I could respect and care about. Matt Damon portrays Benjamin Mee, a frustrated father who loves his kids deeply and wants to help them recover from the death of Katherine—his wife and their mom. Benjamin’s solution, he thinks, is to buy a house on 18 acres of land that also happens to be a zoo—complete with a large staff and dozens of animals. If Benjamin’s vision to re-open the zoo fails, he will lose all his money, the animals may be euthanized, and the staff will lose their jobs.
Running the zoo turns out to be slightly simpler for Benjamin than reaching the heart of his teenage son, Dylan (Colin Ford), who has been expelled from school. Every fourth scene in the film seems to depict Benjamin lecturing his son about his behavior and/or Dylan complaining about living in a zoo. Apart from the bickering, there’s comic relief from the seven-year-old daughter/sister, Rosie, who is thrilled to own a zoo and takes special care of the peacock chicks. There’s even a minor villain—a zoo inspector (played memorably by John Michael Higgins) who’s drunk on his own power and loves to remind the team that he’s watching them.
There’s a minor romantic subplot between Benjamin and the zookeeper, Kelly (played by Scarlett Johansson) that doesn’t go farther than a kiss. Also, 14-year-old Dylan begins to have romantic feelings for 12-year-old Lily (Elle Fanning), who works at the zoo. There is profanity sprinkled throughout, and there’s one instance where the 7-year-old uses foul language to address the zoo inspector.
If you go to this film, and I do heartily recommend it for families with kids who aren’t prone to imitative behavior, you can expect to have your heart tugged at—the music by Jonesi provides some powerful emotive cues throughout the movie. I rooted for these characters to overcome their suffering and succeed in their desires—to have a family adventure, to bless a lot of animals in need, to give their community a great zoo, and to be fully reconciled with one another, opening themselves up to love once more after a huge loss.
Co-writer and director Cameron Crowe is best known for “Jerry Maguire” and a teenage romance, “Say Anything,” and in those films, as well as “We Bought a Zoo,” he shows us men who have a vision for how their lives can be better and how they have to hustle and sacrifice to achieve huge goals. I loved Matt Damon’s portrayal of a flawed father whose love for his kids and need for healing causes him to “put skin in the game” and push himself, his family, and many others, harder than ever before. I can think of only two other films, “The Astronaut Farmer” and “Tucker: The Man and His Dream,” that have also shown visionary fathers so worthy of their family’s respect.
I bought into “We Bought a Zoo,” and I believe many other families will enjoy this film despite some flaws that quickly pass.
Violence: Mild / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Minor
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.