Movie Review: “We Bought A Zoo”

Written by Pam-Marie Gx December 31, 2011

Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage… and a better film editor.

Thanks to the Snakes on a Plane style titling, we can tell that this movie is about a group of people who bought a zoo. More specifically, We Bought A Zoo tells the story of a man named Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) and his two children as they face life 6 months after the death of his wife. In his attempt to give his children some happiness, he does something some might consider reckless. Yes, that’s right, he bought a zoo. They make sure you know that this has happened, by informing you many times throughout the movie.

The plot starts off by showing the son, Dylan Mee (Colin Ford) getting into trouble for creeping out his high school principal through artwork. Now, from what I remember about teenagers, this kid seems to actually be expressing his angst in a rather healthy manner, and he seemed to me to be rather talented. However, he also stole from some cashbox, which is all the excuse Mr. Principal needs to get the weird kid out of his school. The search for a new house/school district begins, and ends after their rather annoying realtor fails to talk them out of buying the zoo. As a side note, what kind of realtor tries to talk people out of buying a property? Maybe it’s just me, but I feel that is the opposite of what a realtor is supposed to do…

Moving on! The rest of the plot is actually rather well-done, showing some of the difficulties and standards that need to be met in caring for animals, and some of the more difficult decisions one faces when the lives of others are placed in ones hands. The interactions between the animals and the humans are actually rather touching. It’s pretty clear that the people involved in writing the script saw animals as being able to interact with humans and have personalities. It was refreshing to have such a mix of pragmatism and compassion in dealing with captive animals.

The mood of We Bought a Zoo switches between being extremely cute and extremely sad. Pretty much any seen with Rosie (the seven-year-old daughter played by Maggie Elizabeth Jones) is instantly infused with adorableness. There are a few scenes where her and Damon talk about the deceased mom, and those are heartbreaking. The zookeeper, Kelly (played by Scarlett Johansson), is also generally adorable, and only rarely breaks out of this to smack some sense into Damon’s character.

Dylan, the son, is actually the opposite of the previously mentioned female characters. For the majority of the movie it’s pretty clear that he’s struggling with his mom’s death and the innate problems that come from just being a teenager. There are several shining moments where he seems able to put all of that aside, and they stand out more because they are such breakthroughs. Considering their youth, all of the kids in this movie do an incredible job conveying the proper emotions consistently.

Actually, all of the acting (with the notable exception of the realtor) was really well done. I sincerely enjoyed the plot, all the scenery was fantastic, and the music was always well-suited to whatever was happening on screen. I had exactly one problem with the movie, and it had nothing to do with any of those aspects. The problem? The video editing was terrible.

Throughout the movie, the camera was constantly shaking for no reason, and many of the cuts were very quick, despite the seriousness and slow pacing of many scenes. Now, I admit that I’m a bit more sensitive to the shaky-cam effect than many people, but the way I think of it is this: my eyes do not shake the world around me even when I jump up and down or run really fast, so please don’t make the world shake when I’m sitting still. All it does is annoy me and make me feel queasy.

Overall, this was a cute movie that dealt very well with a very tough subject. We Bought A Zoo shows how sometimes doing something crazy can lead us to wonderful new adventures. No travesty is so great that it cannot be healed by time and love, and those we lose are always with us in our memories. The film editing is generally just a minor annoyance, and the acting is more than good enough to compensate.

My Rating: 7/10


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About Pam-Marie Gx

Pam-Marie Gx

Reader, writer, student, movie-goer, drinker of rum - Pam-Marie is all these things, and more! She has a large appetite for both media and caffeine, and spends most of her time with some sort of electronic device close at hand. You can follow her on Twitter @PamMarieGx. She may even occasionally be amusing.

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