We Bought A Zoo: "If You Had To Choose Between People And Animals, Who Would You Pick"

Director: Cameron Crowe
Writer:    Aline Brosh McKenna
               Cameron Crowe
Starring: Matt Damon
               Scarlett Johansson
               Thomas Haden Church
               Patrick Fugit
               Colin Ford
               Maggie Elizabeth Jones
               Elle Fanning
               Angus Macfadyen
               Peter Riegert
Rating:   ***

Release Date: 16/03/12

Writer/director Cameron Crowe has been responsible for many iconic and critically acclaimed films, including Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous, and Vanilla Sky. Unfortunately for him, his career hit a wall when his 2005 drama, Elizabethtown was received negatively and bombed at the box office.

Due to this fact, fans of his work have been eagerly waiting and anticipating his follow up film, We Bought a Zoo; an adaptation of writer Benjamin Mee‘s memoir: We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals That Changed Their Lives Forever.  
While We Bought a Zoo isn’t Crowe‘s most compelling film project, it's long overdue, and whilst at times it becomes jumbled it will most definitely please his fans and keep them entertained. Thanks to some marvellous cinematography, solid performances, and a great soundtrack, Crowe manages to deliver an interesting film filled with heart. OK, it isn't likely to win awards upon awards, but the touching and entertaining story will keep people interested and keep Mee's fans happy.

The story chronicles the attempts of the Mee family, father Benjamin (Damon), son Dylan (Ford), and daughter (Jones), as try to move on from a tragic loss. After Dylan gets expelled from school, Benjamin attempts give the family a fresh start, by purchasing a worn down zoo in the hope of giving his children the chance to have a wonderful adventure. At the Rosemoor Wildlife Park, the family dive straight in and meet the team they will be working with, including zoo keeper, Kelly Foster (Johansson). Despite being a dysfunctional team, the group pull together to fight mounting debts and personal tensions, all in order to open the zoo with a grand opening. For the Mee's family, this is also their chance to finally move on from the loss of their mother and wife, Katherine.

Whilst, the performances are solid enough and Matt Damon is genuinely warm in the main role the film never quite managed to connect with me emotionally. The constant swapping between the getting over of Katherine, and the zoo troubles mean the film becomes disjointed at times and takes you out of the moment. I am almost certain that audiences will struggle to invest in each and every moment in the film, but reflecting on a lot of the key scenes, it becomes clear that We Bought a Zoo avoids a lot of the more emotional stuff on purpose, to add to the feeling of the family bottling everything up, which is a good choice as a director, but it doesn't become clear enough and by the time you twig on, it's too late. My only other issue is that during some scenes the film does drag, and even compelling performances can't keep you fully involved.

That said, even though the film is at times to jam packed and doesn’t always deliver on the storylines and characters that it seems to be setting up, there is still plenty to enjoy throughout the film. Simply watching the interactions between humans and wildlife gives the audience plenty of captivating and genuinely touching scenes, especially whenever carpenter, Peter MacCready (Macfadyen) is involved. While We Bought a Zoo isn’t going to be the usual character drama that put Crowe on the map, the film is still likely to offer moviegoers a heartwarming trip to the cinema. A confused focus keeps the movie from being a guaranteed hit with children or even being a captivating adult drama, but for moviegoers who are just interested in seeing a gentle, sweet and touching movie about family, grief and adventure, this will certainly provide that and entertain.

We Bought a Zoo - Trailer