When I first saw the trailer of We Bought a Zoo, I found that it was an original and heartwarming idea. Any movie that features tigers and other animals is usually a winner for me especially since it starred the charming Scarlett Johansson. Seeing as I hadn’t seen a movie of Matt Damon in years, I decided it was time to give this one a shot.
Cast: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Colin Ford, Maggie Elizabeth Jones, John Michael Higgins
This movie is based on the true story of a family who bought a struggling zoo which is called Dartmoor Zoo in real life. After some research I found that it is located in UK. At least thats what it seems like from their official website. However, this flick is set in Southern California. Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) has just suffered the loss of his wife six months ago. Suddenly, he needed to take care of his two children and give up on his adventurous journalist career. To get over the pains of constant reminder the present city he lived in brought him, he decided to take all his money and buy a new place to settle his son, Dylan (Colin Ford) and daughter, Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones). In some twist of events, they ended up falling in love with a beautiful house that had a side obligation of taking care of the Rosemoor Wildlife Park. Against his brother Duncan’s (Thomas Haden Church) advice, he decided to take up this new adventure despite the reluctance of Dylan. There he meets, the head zookeeper Kelly Foster (Scarlett Johansson) and the other 5 members of the workers there. Together, they need to meet the zoo’s requirements and examination/inspection from Walter Ferris (John Michael Higgins) by a certain time and hope that this rebuilding this zoo will bring Benjamin, his children and his passionate staff more than they had imagined.
I didn’t originally know that this was based on a true story. We Bought a Zoo is a heartwarming story about a family and their adventure. In one way, it was about Benjamin Mee rebuilding a struggling zoo and taking up a new challenge, but at the same time its about rebuilding his family also. We could see the parallels between the two with certain events that happen and Benjamin Mee’s character showed how his emotions sometimes would mix up the two.
On that note, Matt Damon who played Benjamin Mee was very convincing. There were some parts that I didn’t like as much, maybe it was the dialogue maybe it was a forced situation. I can’t really pinpoint it, but overall, Matt Damon surprised me with this role. I haven’t seen Matt Damon in a movie since The Talented Mr. Ripley or Ocean’s Thirteen or something like that, However, those roles never really stuck with me and honestly, I don’t remember much of it. This one was really great. He played a great father role who was trying to deal with an ignorant son and just simply trying to be a good father for his children. At the same time, learning how to lead the zoo to a better place despite knowing nothing about how to run a zoo.
Scarlett Johansson plays a very different role from what she usually does. She usually plays a flustered girl in romantic comedies who always makes bad decisions. At times, they even seem like she plays confused roles, with the exception of possibly her supporting role as Black Widow in The Avengers. I like Johansson a lot as an actress. Something about her makes me feel like she’s genuine and true and captures her roles very well. No doubt, she is charming and pretty but in this one, she played a tough head zookeeper who knew what and when was the right thing to do in the best interests. She played the role where she wasn’t the damsel in distress but she supported Benjamin Mee in making the right move and leading and teaching him how to be a leader for everyone. She was the foundation that helped keep everything together.
The kids in this movie were also quite good. Rosie was cute and adorable. Everything she did and said made us believe that this movie was about a new beginning. It was about believing in the impossible. She was a gem through the whole thing. Dylan on the other hand did a pretty decent job as well. He was older so he portrayed the reluctance of change and of giving up what he already had in his city life. It was part of coming of age and a journey of growing up for him and learning new values and life lessons.
The combination of all these factors: the outstanding cast, the heartwarming story, and the passion for adventure made me fall in love with this movie. Its not going to be a huge hit or will it ever be. There are no doubt flaws in rhetorical dialogue. However, there is also no questions as how this movie can carry you into a beautiful world and a father’s hope to give a better life for his family. There’s a lot that the audience can get from this movie in life lessons and values. We learn a little bit from every character and their differences.
I love this movie and I think its a great watch. It carries a good message and for once, puts the love story in the back seat but brings forth the value of family and the passion of not being afraid of adventure and building a dream, no matter how impossible it may seem, no matter how many obstacles you have to overcome.
Whats your favorite family adventure movie?