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We Bought a Zoo (2011)

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Set in Southern California, a father moves his young family to the countryside to renovate and re-open a struggling zoo.



(screenplay), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
2,149 ( 228)
1 win & 8 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Peter MacCready (as Angus MacFadyen)
Mr. Stevens (as JB Smoove)


Benjamin has lost his wife. In a bid to start his life over, he purchases a large house that has a zoo. This is welcome news for his daughter, but his son is not happy about it. The zoo is need of renovation and Benjamin sets about the work with the head keeper, Kelly, and the rest of the zoo staff. But, the zoo soon runs into financial trouble. The staff must get the zoo back to its former glory, pass a zoo inspection, and get it back open to the public. Written by Kad

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Comedy | Drama | Family

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for language and some thematic elements | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

23 December 2011 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Un zoológico en casa  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$50,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$9,450,000 (USA) (23 December 2011)


$75,621,915 (USA) (11 May 2012)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


When Matt Damon's character climbs over the tree the real Benjamin Mee, Milo Mee (Dylan in the movie) and Ella Mee (Rosie in the movie) can be seen as the first family in line. In the scene, Benjamin Mee is wearing what appears to be a Dartmoor Zoological Park cap, which is the actual zoo in England on which the movie is based. See more »


Kelly tells Rosie that tigers don't roar, they chuff. In actuality, tigers can roar; chuffing is their alternative to purring. See more »


[first lines]
Dylan Mee: My dad is a writer who specialized in adventure.
Benjamin Mee: This is Benjamin Mee. I am surrounded by hundreds, probably thousands of killer bees. If I wasn't wearing this suit, I would be dead in an instant.
Dylan Mee: He interviewed dangerous dictators.
Hugo Chavez: Take this message to that American cowboy. We already gave a 10 billion dollar oil credit to China. Swallow that, Mr. Danger!
Benjamin Mee: What's your favorite movie?
Hugo Chavez: Toy Story.
[to his staff]
Hugo Chavez: The first one or the second one?
Segundo: The second.
See more »


Referenced in Cameron's Book of Love (2014) See more »


Gathering Stories
Music by Jon Thor Birgisson (as Jónsi)
Lyrics by Jon Thor Birgisson (as Jónsi) and Cameron Crowe
Performed by Jon Thor Birgisson (as Jónsi)
Produced by Jon Thor Birgisson (as Jónsi) and Alex Somers
Courtesy of XL Recordings and Parlophone Records
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

An Inspiring Family Film
3 January 2012 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This holiday season brought audiences several great movie options to see. Out of all of them, earlier today I believe I shave seen my favorite. Not War Horse, Sherlock Holmes, Tintin, Mission Impossible, or Alvin and the Chipmunks. The winner is We Bought a Zoo. Now to be fair, I haven't seen Mission Impossible 4, but despite all the great things I've heard about it, I don't think it will strike a chord with me like We Bought a Zoo did. It is such an inspirational story with a powerful message. And it gets quite emotional in several spots. Now I'm not an emotional person typically and I've never actually cried in a movie, but this movie almost broke me. My mom, who cries a lot during movies, certainly was crying in a few spots, so its a tearjerker.

We Bought a Zoo is based on a true story. Specifically the memoir of Benjamin Mee, which is his story of, as you can guess, him buying a Zoo. There are some noticeable differences in the movie and in the real life story as I have looked at it afterwards, but those changes were adapted only after the approval of Benjamin Mee himself, who still owns and lives in the Zoo he purchased. In the movie, Benjamin, played by Matt Damon, is going through some serious family troubles. Namely, his wife the he dearly loved has just recently passed away which has made life for his young family really difficult emotionally, especially for him and his teenage son. Seeking to get away from life a bit, he decides that he wants to move and falls in love with a certain country house some 9 miles outside town. Before purchasing it, he quickly learns that it is a somewhat broken down and struggling Zoo. Despite his background as an adventurous person, he has no knowledge of Zoology. However, he decides to take on the task to help renovate and re-open the struggling Zoo. With that said, yes it is a story about a Zoo, but telling a story of how a man renovated a Zoo is not the point of this movie. It is a story of courage. A story about moving forward in life despite the difficult times. Lastly it's a story about maintaining good relationships with your family and those around you. There are a few taglines in the movie that really just jumped out at me that I will remember and use in my own personal life to help me.

Now We Bought a Zoo isn't without its flaws. There are times when I was slightly bored with it and times where it seemed to move slow. I wasn't a big fan of some of the acting by several of the more minor characters. But overall it was a very well done film. The strongest part of the movie was certainly Matt Damon. He has become one of my favorite actors recently and in this he gives a very good performance. If the Academy Awards were up to me, I would give him the Oscar for best Actor after this performance. I hope he at least gets nominated because he deserves it. The cast around him was also superb for the most part. Scarlett Johansson did a great job in the lead female performance, that being Kelly the lead Zookeeper. Elle Fanning did a great job acting as one of the younger crew members of the Zoo. Lastly, Benjamin's two kids ages 14 and 7, were done quite well. His 14 year old son Dylan, played by Colin Ford, even looked and acted like a young Matt Damon. The score in this movie was absolutely beautiful. It really made the movie. In my opinion it is one of the best scores of the year. The cinematography was also great. I especially loved the animal shots in the movie.

In conclusion, We Bought a Zoo is no action-packed, high suspense adventure movie. If you are looking for that, go check out Mission Impossible or Sherlock Holmes. What it is is an inspirational family movie that I really enjoyed. I highly recommend you check it out. I give it an 8 out of 10.

37 of 50 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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