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Saturday, December 31, 2011

We Bought A Zoo



Based on a true story, Cameron Crowe's We Bought A Zoo finds Matt Damon, a widower and father of two, so desperate to escape the memories of his late wife that he buys a run down zoo and moves his family in. The cadre of character actors like Angus MacFadyen from Braveheart and Patrick Fugit from Crowe's Almost Famous who work at the zoo, and Thomas Hayden Church as Damon's pragmatic older brother, have their doubts about the zoo's new owner. The one person who believes in Damon is Scarlett Johansson, because a movie star recognizes another movie star and instantly believes a movie star can do what he sets out to do. Despite numerous setbacks, financial and natural, they all pitch in and get that zoo open. To get there, Damon must mend fences with his surly son Colin Ford who's still mourning for his dead mother. Damon's precocious young daughter Maggie Elizabeth Jones settled into the zoo just fine. Johansson, sans makeup for the entire picture, is radiant, even when picking up snakes and shoveling bear shit, which takes Damon the length of the picture to finally pick up on.  Meanwhile, Ford picks up on all the obvious signals the pretty, giggly farm girl his age, Elle Fanning, sends out and finds a little teen romance in spite of himself. Like father, like son, macking on the zookeeper girls. Crowe, the director of Singles and Pearl Jam Twenty, couldn't resist working in some of his (and my) favorite rock tracks like Tom Petty "Don't Come Around Here No More" and Temple of the Dog "Hunger Strike", to his credit and my enjoyment. We Bought A Zoo, all about letting go and finding new adventure to heal from loss, is a sweet movie at heart but lacks teeth. Yet, the appeal of this zoo run by movie stars is undeniable. What a fun summer day it would be to visit a zoo run by Jason Bourne, The Black Widow, The Sandman, and the girl from Super 8.