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We Bought a Zoo
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We Bought a Zoo More at IMDbPro »

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113 out of 143 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful & Touching, Crowe does it again.

9/10
Author: wbhendrix-1 from United States
27 November 2011

Cameron Crowe never fails to deliver hart warming drama-comedies that make you laugh, cry and keep you on the edge of your seat for duration of his films. For me personally, I never seem to agree with Crowe's casting taste (Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson never do much for me) but Cameron has a way with actors and a true vision for his story. He always seems to know exactly who can capture his characters and ultimately draw out your emotions that he's tugging at.

In We Bought a Zoo, there is a bit of a slow start and at one point I was worried Cameron had lowered his voice to appeal to a larger audience to please producers and critics alike (after his Critically-bombed but personal all time fav, Elizabethtown).

But let me tell you, pay your dues with the first half of this film because the second half will take you on a mesmerizing cinematic adventure you'll be heartbroken for more. Cameron ventures into a new family drama without compromising his voice, music taste or quality film making. And if you are still not a huge CC fan, the animals are sure to win you over. Their beautiful and natural moments on screen are as breath taking as they are tear-jerking.

Spend an amazing two hours with this film and there won't be a person in your household that won't agree that this film is one to remember. From a fan and living-room-critic, I give it two thumbs up :)

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87 out of 110 people found the following review useful:

In praise of earnestness

10/10
Author: holdenkara
26 December 2011

I am grateful that in this cynical world, there are still artists who are courageous enough not to run from earnestness, but to embrace it. Cameron Crowe has done just that with WE BOUGHT A ZOO. This is a beautiful movie, full of life - truthfully acted, beautifully shot and lovingly directed. I expected to cry (which I did, many times) but I didn't know that it would also be so funny with levity coming just when you need it. Matt Damon was brilliant as the heartbroken but hopeful father. And my only gripe about Thomas Haden Church is that there wasn't more of him! The kids were all brilliant -- not an ounce of self-consciousness to their acting, which is rare when it comes to child actors. And the final scene alone is worth the price of admission. Anyone willing to open his or her heart will fall in love with this movie like I did. Kudos to all involved.

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75 out of 98 people found the following review useful:

Film Clips Don't Do This Movie Justice

8/10
Author: patsworld from United States
5 January 2012

We Bought A Zoo is a heart-warming, fun movie. The casting is a good as you could wish for and if I had to choose, I'd pick this as my favorite Matt Damon film. For anyone who loves animals, and I have to confess I'm about head of the line as one of them, this is a marvelous picture with not only the people personalities shining forth, but so too the animals. In most cases, we all know that the brief film clips shown prior to the movie are supposed to be showing the best of the picture. In this case, that is far from the truth. I almost passed this delightful movie up because all I could think of was, if this is the best there is...I don't think so. I'm so glad I opted to see it in spite of my reservations. Who ever picked the preview clips should be fired...or retrained, perhaps, because what they went with most certainly didn't do this movie justice. Not even close. It's a really enjoyable movie and I'd recommend it to everyone.

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71 out of 92 people found the following review useful:

Simple and Hopeful.

8/10
Author: jmeshearer from California
23 December 2011

This film, starring Matt Damon, was unequivocally everything I had hoped it would be. Upon viewing the trailer while waiting to watch The Muppets, there were tears in my eyes and my heart skipped a beat as I remembered I wasn't watching the film itself, just the preview.

The film came out yesterday and to my luck, my mother invited me to go and see it with her this evening. I was thrilled to see that the music throughout the film was performed by a favorite Icelandic musician, Jónsi, with a perfect selection of "Holocene" from Bon Iver's new album. It was little details such as these that kept me appreciating the film from start to finish.

The plot may have been at times predictable but they were predictions you wanted to happen; conflict you wanted to be resolved and rain you wish would stop. Coming into the theater already a Matt Damon fan I was interested to see how he was going to fill the widowed father role. A few things a noticed; Matt does look older, he is still as handsome as ever, and he should stick with a shorter haircut. Aside from my personal opinion, I think anyone leaving the theater could agree he played the roll wonderfully.

The warmhearted character of adorable Maggie Elizabeth Jones, melted my heart every time she was on the screen. Her character, "Rosie" was the seven year old whose dreams came true; her Dad moved them to a zoo. My favorite scene is when the Realtor tells Matt Damon's character, "Benjamin" that the house they wanted to buy was also a zoo. As Benjamin stood there dumbfounded, Rosie Jumped up and down as any seven year old would shouting "Yay!". Seriously, the cutest thing ever.

If the cast didn't win you over the animals did. Tigers, lions, bears, snakes, monkeys, owls, otters, peacocks, etc. The list goes on and on. Each personality portrayed in a relatable way as if you were on the team helping run the zoo itself.

If you and your family are wanting to go see a movie this holiday season, go and see We Bought A Zoo. It is the perfect film to tug at your heart strings, leave you with tears in your eyes, and hope in your heart.

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41 out of 50 people found the following review useful:

A wonderful family movie that is full of heart and appeals to all ages. A must see family movie. I easily say its an A.

9/10
Author: Tony Heck (cosmo_tiger@hotmail.com) from United States
31 March 2012

"You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it." Benjamin Mee's (Damon) life is starting to crumble. His wife has died, his son is expelled from school and he quit his job. In hopes to start a new life they decide to move and find the perfect house. Then they realize that it's a zoo. I have to admit that I was a little skeptical going in because I thought that it would be a good movie but really cheesy. I really like Cameron Crowe though so I expected it to be good from that. I have to admit that this was one of the best family movies that I have seen in a long time. The movie had enormous heart, depth and tackled real world issues while still appealing to all ages. The writing and the acting were great and the movie absolutely won me over a half hour in. I highly recommend this one. Overall, this is a must see for families and is one to buy so you can watch over and over. I give it an A.

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51 out of 71 people found the following review useful:

A lot of heart and humanity makes this a delightful, inspiring and poignant autobiographical tale notable too for a peerless lead act by Matt Damon

8/10
Author: moviexclusive from Singapore
20 December 2011

You can't get more obvious what your film is about with a title like 'We Bought a Zoo', but fortunately director Cameron Crowe's adaptation of British journalist Benjamin Mee's autobiography possesses much more subtlety and nuance than what its title would suggest. The story of a grieving widower who makes the unusual decision to buy a rural property whose 18 acres includes the Rosemoor Animal Park, it is also Crowe's first feature since his 2005 flop 'Elizabethtown' and the feel-good family movie represents a welcome return to form for the talented filmmaker behind such classics like 'Say Anything' and 'Jerry Maguire'.

Working off a script by 'The Devil Wears Prada' and 'Morning Glory's' Aline Brosh McKenna, Crowe grounds the high-concept tale in a heart- warming story about a lonely widower trying to overcome his grief for his bereaved wife while attempting to reconnect with his teenage son Dylan (Colin Ford) and young daughter Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones). Crowe is better than to take the easy route of mawkish sentimentality; instead, there is genuine humanity and optimism in his storytelling, complemented by some outstanding performances that he coaxes from an ensemble cast- in particular his lead actor Matt Damon.

Though the 'Bourne' trilogy has cemented his reputation as a thinking man's action star, Damon has been and still is a strong dramatic actor. The astute actor confidently matches the emotional beats that Crowe chooses for his character every step of the way, from sanguineness at a change of scenery early on to dismay later on when one thing after another goes awry. His is a heartfelt performance that packs a powerful emotional wallop in his understated delivery of a father struggling to do it right by his children- and nowhere is this more evident than in a powerful scene where Benjamin and Dylan address their fractured relationship head-on which is guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes.

The conviction that Damon brings to his role is a huge reason why the film achieves its intended poignancy. A scene where his character finally overcomes his fear of looking at past photographs of his wife and their happy days together as a family is simple yet moving- and appropriately filmed in close-ups; while the film's last scene where he reminisces his first encounter with his deceased wife to his children also works brilliantly thanks to Damon at his earnest best. He also shares great chemistry with each of his co-stars- whether Scarlett Johannson's perceptive zookeeper Kelly, or Thomas Haden Church's wry older brother Duncan.

Both Johannson and Church are also individually outstanding in their supporting roles, alongside other equally incomparable veterans like Angus MacFadyen as the groundskeeper with a longstanding grudge for park inspector Walter Ferris (John Michael Higgins) and Patrick Fugit (who played Crowe's alter ego in 'Almost Famous') as one of the zoo staffers with a capuchin monkey perpetually perched on his shoulders. Crowe has also assembled an impressive teenage cast- Ford brings a raw edge to his character's anger, counterbalanced perfectly by the ebullient Elle Fanning as Kelly's cousin- as well as an impossibly adorable Maggie Elizabeth Jones sure to melt your heart.

Aided by an outstanding cast, Crowe drives the narrative along with a sure confident hand. Alongside the running themes of grief and parenthood are well-inserted vignettes of Benjamin and his crew's obstacles at getting the zoo up to inspection standards in time for a grand reopening on the seventh seventh (or the seventh of July)- among them the escape of the zoo's 650-pound grizzly bear Buster, the fate of the zoo's 17-year-old ailing tiger Spar and of course Benjamin's impending bankruptcy (that we admit is over all too soon by a dues ex machina). Still, there is genuine feeling in every scene, and Crowe's choice of music (a mix of oldies with more contemporary tunes) as well as Jónsi's (of Icelandic cult band Sigur Rós) eclectic score works perfectly in complementing the mood of the film.

And even though it's tinged with sadness, the tone of the film is never depressing- Crowe making it sure that the film steers clear of both over-dramatic as well as melodramatic moments. There's hope and affirmation abound in this inspirational tale, and just because its message of acceptance and reconciliation may sound familiar doesn't mean it is less authentic or touching for that matter. It wears its heart on its sleeve, but thanks to Crowe's deft hand as well as Damon's heartfelt performance, even the cynical will find themselves moved.

- www.moviexclusive.com

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46 out of 67 people found the following review useful:

Why Not?!

9/10
Author: www.ramascreen.com from United States
24 December 2011

-- www.Ramascreen.com --

And the 2011 most feel-good movie goes to WE BOUGHT A ZOO. It's one of the most heartwarming, delightful, pleasant family films you'll see this Holiday season. It's also an excellent grief-themed movie. Great ensemble cast, across the board. This is much lighter than what we usually expect from Cameron Crowe who brought us Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous, and Vanilla Sky, but after leaving us with the meditational Elizabethtown, which I didn't enjoy very much, and then 6 years hiatus, WE BOUGHT A ZOO is a very sweet, very nice comeback, a breath of fresh air…

What I enjoy about Crowe's movies is that there's always something personable about them, and it's no different with WE BOUGHT A ZOO. This film is not preachy, it doesn't hit you like a ton of bricks, it doesn't drag, it doesn't get too sentimental either. It's tender yet firm, a bit predictable yet entertaining. It's one of those movies that make anything seem possible, somewhat of an underdog story, the kind that's generally liked, it's a good way for Crowe to tell the world that he's still in the game, without having to alienate his old fans, while embracing some new ones. Be glad that this is not a talking animal movie. The animals in WE BOUGHT A ZOO serve as a way to challenge the humans on their road to healing and triumph.

Matt Damon is a fantastic actor because he can be action man in one movie and he can be your next door regular neighbor joe schmoe in another. As the single dad, Benjamin Mee, Damon channels a certain vulnerability that comes with fatherhood. And Damon shows the sorrow and exhaustion of a newly single parent. I think it's great to see Scarlett Johansson utilizing more than just her good looks. She shows some range that we remember from Lost In Translation, Girl With A Pearl Earring and The Horse Whisperer. Johansson is not believable as a zookeeper, I mean, let's face it,.. if you were to name someone who handles a zoo or cleans animal crap for a living, Johansson would probably the last person on your list, but she seems self-composed, which allows her character to be Mee's listening ear. Outstanding work by the teens in this film, Colin Ford who plays Mee's angry son, Dylan and Elle Fanning who plays the socially awkward Elle Fanning. Their characters embody stereotypical teens and their usual problems with parents and also with peers their age. Ford and Fanning are actors who are going to rock Hollywood someday, you just wait and see.

Some things don't work for me, although I admit Maggie Elizabeth Jones who plays the little daughter Rosie is absolutely adorable, I think the film plays out her cuteness way too often, way too much. And I think it's sad that Patrick Fugit who was practically the star of Crowe's 2000 Oscar worthy movie, Almost Famous, doesn't get to have a substantial role in this film. All he mostly does is stand there in the background with a monkey on his back, how sad. Aside from the zoo aspect, the story itself, in its core, is nothing unique but that doesn't necessarily mean a bad thing. It's about difficulties of moving on. The loss of his wife, the mother of his children, leaves a mark that can't easily be replaced by the appeal an unconventional new home. But as the film suggests, sometimes plans change, and all of a sudden it's not about you anymore. And it's not a Crowe movie without such memorable lines like 'Show me the money' and 'you had me at hello', WE BOUGHT A ZOO has a hopeful message of taking chances and gambling on life through 20 seconds of insane courage, loving people, and adventurous, unadulterated joy. And if you're still asking why you should watch this movie, just say to yourself.. why not?!

-- www.Ramascreen.com --

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38 out of 52 people found the following review useful:

Stop comparing to Jerry Maguire! This is a great family film.

7/10
Author: SoloHero5 from Canada
1 January 2012

We bought a zoo is a great movie to go see with the family. Damon flaunts his emotional acting abilities with great form but the stage stealer is young Maggie Elizebeth Jones playing Damon's seven year old daughter. Jones is an eccentric little girl who is bound to bring laughter and Aww's out of you. Elle Fanning does a great job as always; Tomas Haden Church plays his perfect role, and Scarlett Johansson levels things out very nicely.

If you want a lot of emotion with consistent laughter, We Bought a Zoo is a great Sunday afternoon choice. Bound to bring tears, smiles and laughter, with a great true story to back it up.

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39 out of 54 people found the following review useful:

Like the Animals, Love the People

7/10
Author: David Ferguson (fergusontx@gmail.com) from Dallas, Texas
11 December 2011

Greetings again from the darkness. Director Cameron Crowe has finally emerged from his cocoon - 7 years after the abysmal Elizabethtown. Yes, he has had a couple of projects in that time, notably the Pearl Jam documentary, but he has avoided anything related to his dramatic film roots of which produced "Say Anything", "Jerry Maguire" and "Almost Famous". This time he delivers a feel good, family appropriate, sentimental crowd-pleaser that should play very well to the holiday crowd.

Please know I do not use "sentimental" as a derogatory term. Sure there are moments where the actions and dialogue seem contrived and manipulative, but some of the best crowd-pleasers throughout Hollywood history have these same traits. This film is based on a true story and uses Benjamin Mee's autobiographical book as the basic source material. The real Mee family and their zoo, are stationed in England, not southern California as Crowe presents them. What I can tell you is that this version of the Mee family and the zoo staff is interesting and entertaining, even if you just have to let go and allow yourself to be guided through.

Matt Damon plays Benjamin Mee and the story picks up after his wife dies. He soon quits his job and moves his two kids to the country so they can work through their grief and start fresh. His teenage son Dylan is played with blazing anger by the talented Colin Ford. The precocious 7 year old daughter is played by scene-stealer Maggie Elizabeth Jones. This family experiences the realities of struggling with their pain and difficulties in communicating.

As for the zoo, it is in major disrepair and in danger of closing if it doesn't pass its pending inspection. Benjamin works with the rag-tag staff, including head zookeeper Kelly (Scarlett Johansson), to bring the facility up to code and nurse the sick animals back to health. As the zoo is rehabbed, so are the individuals. No surprise there.

The main conflict in the story comes from the hard-headedness of Benjamin and Dylan, as they ignore their inability to communicate and connect as father and son. A couple of their scenes together are the best in the film for acting and realistic dialogue. At the same time, Kelly acts as a quasi-love interest for Benjamin, while Lily (Elle Fanning) uses puppy love to help Dylan through his misery. That sub-plot is where Crowe missed a real chance. Ms. Fanning is one of the top young actresses working today and her contributions here are limited to that luminescent smile.

The wild cast of supporting actors includes wise-cracking Thomas Haden Church as Benjamin's brother, JB Smoove as the Realtor, Peter Riegert as Mee's editor, Patrick Fugit (from Almost Famous) as the guy with a monkey on his shoulder, Angus Macfadyen as the colorful zoo maintenance man, and John Michael Higgins as the snooty zoo inspector who knowingly holds their future in his smarmy hand.

As always, Crowe uses music better than most any other director. This includes his use of score and soundtrack to compliment a scene or drive the setting and mood. What really makes this film work is Matt Damon. His character is the heart of the film and the soul of the family. His performance is strong enough to prevent the film from lapsing into pure sap and makes us care for him, his family and this zoo. Don't expect some cutting edge, independent sulk fest. Just accept the movie for what it is ... a feel good story delivered for the holidays.

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32 out of 43 people found the following review useful:

An Inspiring Family Film

8/10
Author: alienator345 from United States
3 January 2012

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.

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