Friday, December 30, 2011

Movie Review: We Bought a Zoo

I went to the movie We Bought a Zoo, and I was pleased discover this movie was another film that is about a writer turned zookeeper. Anything about a writer who takes an adventure is a great premise for me. Before I launch into the guts of my thoughts here, I want to say I thought this was a children's movie. It contains children, yes, but I would not call it a children's movie. It had adult themes about loss, love and family, but it was not like a viewing of Toy Story. At specific parts, I had some tears welling up in my eyes. I don't know that children will be moved in the same emotional way since they may not fully understand what is being expressed in those scenes. The good news, older children will appreciate the kids and animals.

Matt Damon gives a nice performance as a dad left widowed after his wife is presumably taken by cancer (they never say, but it seems obvious). He and his children (a seven-year-old girl and 14-year-old boy) are still grieving and coping. Damon soon decides to start over and finds himself drawn to the idea of buying this zoo. What comes with the zoo, a menagerie of characters who work there. Of course, the story is your typical fish-out-water experience as Damon's character learns how to manage a zoo and deal with numerous unexpected costs. The plus points about the movie, the story is honest about grief and while Damon has a love interest, he does not plunge headlong into a new relationship and quickly forget the old. The movie fully explores his loss even to the very end. I respected that the storytellers didn't think his wife could be easily replaced and forgotten.

Overall, I was engaged in the movie, but then found myself getting antsy. What does that mean? I would give it 2.5 or 3 stars. It bogged down a little bit in some parts such as the decision to buy the zoo; the financial stuff; and the love story with the teens wasn't realistic. Let me comment on that love story for a moment. I felt that most respective 14 and 12 year olds don't declare their "love" at such a young age -- that felt odd and inappropriate. At least they didn't have these young actors kissing, which would have felt wrong too since the girl (Dakota Fanning's younger sister) was only 12.

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