Sunday, April 08, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—We Bought a Zoo (2011) ***½

PG, 124 min.
Director: Cameron Crowe
Writers: Aline Brosh McKenna, Cameron Crowe, Benjamin Mee (book)
Starring: Matt Damon, Colin Ford, Maggie Elizabeth Jones, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Angus Macfadyen, Elle Fanning, Patrick Fugit, John Michael Higgins, Carla Gallo, J.B. Smoove

I often second-guess myself after I heap praise upon a movie that others don’t. Some liked “We Bought a Zoo” when it was released in theaters, others not so much. I didn’t see any critics seeming to enjoy it as much as I did, however. Upon seeing it again, my initial feelings about the movie were confirmed. I really like this movie. It strikes my heart.

When I saw the movie in theaters, I was by myself. The movie was being pushed as a family holiday film. I thought, at that time, that it was made for adults and not for kids. Kids could watch it and maybe enjoy it, but it was really for mommy and daddy. I’m not so sure about that now.

Director Cameron Crowe certainly doesn’t play the material down to the kids, and that is one of the movie’s greatest strengths. My boys watched it with me this time, and I think they enjoyed it much more than I expected them to, and much more than they expected. This warmed my heart as well. I’m glad my children don’t have to be treated like children in order to enjoy a movie. So show it to your children. It’ll enlighten them and entertain you much more than the latest “Alvin and the Chipmunks” offering.

Read my original review here.


Ελλάδα said...

If you like Damon and Johansson, you'll like this movie. They're not my favorites, however, so I found them a bit annoying and their characters idealized and unbelievable. The romantic tension between them takes up most of the story, which I felt was rushing things for a man whose beloved wife died only six months earlier. The little girl who plays the daughter is way too precocious to be believed; she never acts like a 7-year old but speaks with the wisdom and maturity of a 40-year old. Colin Ford, on the other hand, is wonderful as the alienated teenage son. There isn't much interaction or `awwww-how-cute' moments with the animals; this story is about the people.

Since it's based on a true story, I can appreciate the heart behind it, but still, fixing up the dilapidated zoo did seem rather effortless for Damon's city-slicker character. Although it's predictable and sentimental, the story deals sensitively with human and animal death and there were few dry eyes in my theater.

Andrew D. Wells said...

Damon and Johansson are idealized as they are in many of their films. I don't think this is really supposed to be a realistic movie even though it's based on real events. None of Crowe's movies are (except maybe Almost Famous). Crowe is a romantic. His movies are romances. I don't mean necessarily a fall in love romance. I disagree with you about the Damon/Johansson relationship. I think it's down played for what most people would've done with it. Crowe focuses much more on Damon's role as a father to his children than any other aspect of his life. I also disagree about the ease of the fix up. His staff did most of that work and that was their job. His job was the money and that certainly wasn't presented as an easy thing for him, unless you forget about the whole part where it looks like he's run out of money and it is only his wife's secret nest egg that saves them. True you don't really see how much money he goes through or exactly how it's used, but that doesn't necessarily make for great drama, especially when the director's goals lie in a different area. I also disagree about the 7-year old. Yes, children have ridiculous wisdom in Hollywood movies. The only unusual wisdom she displays though is when she says he's better looking than the rest of the dads. I don't believe our children see us in those terms. Her other bits of wisdom come very much from the heart of a child. She wanted to live at a zoo! How is that not what a kid would want?