Our next movie is “We Bought a Zoo, “ about a family who … buys a zoo. Director and co-writer Cameron Crowe’s film is based on a true story, with some tweaks. Matt Damon stars as Benjamin Mee, a widower and father of two who’s struggling to move on after his wife’s death. He thinks a change of scenery might help.
But since Benjamin was a newspaper columnist – and not a zoologist – he has no idea what he’s doing. He gets some help from the animal park’s ragtag, hippie crew, led by Scarlett Johansson as head zookeeper.
Moving to a zoo eventually helps Benjamin reconnect with his surly teenage son, played by Colin Ford. And because you’re watching a film by Cameron Crowe you know there will be some poignantly phrased life lessons.
Yes, “We Bought a Zoo” is sentimental and overlong, but I was surprised by how much it charmed me. Everyone is so good in it, especially Damon, that I just had to give in. This is the first feature from Crowe since the 2005 flop “Elizabethtown,” and while it’s not a complete return to form, it’s close enough for me. Thumbs up.
IGNATIY: I was also surprised by how much this movie charmed you because it’s not any good.
CHRISTY: Not a single moment of this worked for you?
IGNATIY: One moment.
CHRISTY: Tell me.
IGNATIY: The—the very end of the film.
IGNATIY: The—the epilogue, which is totally unrelated to this whole zoo story where he takes the kids to a restaurant, and he tells them about how he met their mother. And here’s the thing—here’s what’s wrong with the rest of the movie. It’s about, for example, how much he misses his wife, right, but you never really get a sense of what this wife that he’s missing is like as a person.
CHRISTY: It’s more about her—the effect of her death shapes them and how they have to reconcile after it.
IGNATIY: The—the whole movie is about them running a zoo, which you never even understand what the zoo is like.
CHRISTY:Well, it’s called We Bought A Zoo.
IGNATIY: It’s called we—we never understand how much money is involved, right, even though they’re…
CHRISTY: Yes we do! There’s a whole subplot with a hidden bank account with specific dollar amounts.
IGNATIY: That’s the only time you see something physically…
CHRISTY: Specific dollar amounts.
IGNATIY: You don’t even know what the zoo is like or what makes it special because in the end you get this title card that explains what an innovative zoo this is.
CHRISTY: Not true. You had people who used to go to the zoo who say, “I’m so happy reopened the zoo.” So you know it matters to people.
IGNATIY: That’s the story—that’s like a perfect description of this film, and you know what? The score is so cloying. It’s so overpoweringly mockish. It’s like…
CHRISTY: I’m not saying Cameron Crowe is subtle. I’m not, but this worked for me more than I thought it was going to.
IGNATIY: Anytime, you know, he’s looking at an animal and then the suddenly the swells of Sigur Ros start coming up.