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Film Review: We Bought a Zoo

Jan 18, 2012 02:20AM ● By Justin Buettner

Based on a true story, We Bought A Zoo follows the adventure of Ben, a single father who, in an attempt to help his family reconnect after the death of his wife, decides to buy a zoo. The family only has a few months to restore the zoo to operating condition. To meet the zoo regulators' high standards Ben must spend his life savings and enlist the bare bones staff to help in an attempt to pull of the miracle.

This movie is genuinely a “feel good” movie. Even though We Bought A Zoo deals with very serious issues, the entire film feels very upbeat. Most of it comes across as genuine although there were several parts that got a bit too sappy for my tastes.

The cast and crew of We Bought A Zoo is truly top notch. Matt Damon plays this role with ease and comes across as a natural. I particularly liked the job the two child actors did in the film especially seven-year-old actress, Maggie Jones. She is unquestionably cute without being annoying. Cameron Crowe, who directed Jerry Maguire, seems to have a knack at finding cute kids to cast in his films (and gets great performances from them!).

The movie surprisingly does not feature the same kind of soundtrack of classic rock and roll that I associate with Cameron Crowe movies (Crowe was originally a writer for Rolling Stone). The music in parts seemed to be a bit out of place in fact (a bit too happy for some somber moments). The story also seems to miss opportunities to really capitalize on emotional threads in the movie that would have added a lot more weight and drama. Instead the writer and filmmakers opted to go with a lighter feel and tried to insert comedic montages which felt a bit forced. Going for the “lighter” route certainly kept its feel good tone, but I can’t help but to think this movie had a chance for awards consideration had it taken its issues a tad more seriously.

Overall We Bought a Zoo is a family safe movie that really delivers a happy tone. I think it will be particularly poignant for families who have dealt with the loss of an immediate family member. The fact that this movie is based on true events makes it even more touching and uplifting (I wish they had included pictures of the real life people/zoo that it is based on during the end credits). We Bought A Zoo is the best of the recent family friendly movies based on real life events (the others being Soul Surfer and Dolphin Tale). It’s great to see Hollywood attaching top tier talent to family films --  I hope the trend continues.

Films like We Bought A Zoo – Blind Side, Dolphin Tale and Eight Below

Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.

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