1/2/2012 1:02:00 AM
We Bought A Zoo (PG) * * *
By ROBERT WALDMAN
Strange titles can yield pleasant results. Such is the case for 20th Century Fox’s We Bought a Zoo, a real charmer now on display at Empire Studio 12, Colossus and Cineplex Odeon Theatres around B.C.
Christmas and the holiday season is the best time to bring out films that whole family can enjoy without worries of bad language or questionable conduct on screen. Here 20th Century Fox sends just the right signals in We Bought a Zoo, a triumphant tale of a family often at rope’s end trying to cope with a host of unfortunate circumstances. How they do it is masterfully revealed by winning director Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire) who also wrote this emotional script.
Grief affects people differently. In the case of one Benjamin Mee its not easy to overcome a loss. Certainly no “me” person is Matt Damon (The Bourne Supremacy) one of the most charitable and giving people in all entertainment. Damon shines as a confused dad doing his best to raise two children, a young girl Rosie and uptight son Dylan. Cute as a button Maggie Elizabeth Jones will steal your heart as Rosie while Colin Ford’s truly is a parent’s worst nightmare as a troubled boy. How their dad copes with these diverse children is a big part of We Bought A Zoo, a film that explores how a change of location can affect everyone.
Not immune to problems of his own is Benjamin who has not yet recovered from losing his wife. When an opportunity to resettle in a new home springs forth Benjamin takes up the challenge. Little does he know that turning a run down home in the countryside around and reviving a defunct animal farm would be such a daunting task. Along the way huge lessons are learned that director Crowe handles with great finesse as the emotional wells run deep.
In We Bought a Zoo you have a premise of urbanites going back to their rural roots. Though we’ve seen this approach before work in this 124 minute film there are lots of surprises along the way. Each character comes of age in their own right and we’re all the better for it. Being able to overcome a handicap is hard to achieve and is a noble trait and We Bought A Zoo exposes a number of modern pains reflected in the past with never sounding a bit preachy or paternalistic.
Issues of money, love, kindness and family values all come into play in We Bought A Zoo a delightful tale of nature and care. Matt Damon has never been better as a misunderstood dad facing a whole series of challenges. More surprising I the top billing given Scarlett Johansson who, while important to the story, simply put takes a back seat to Damon who truly scores a home run with his parenting skills (or lack thereof). Where he shines is his ability to crawl out of his shell and blossom. It’s wonderful to behold.