Filn Review: We Bought a Zoo

Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson star in Cameron Crowe’s adaptation of an extraordinary true story.

We Bought a Zoo

Cert. PG

3/5 stars

WHEN Benjamin Mee’s (Matt Damon) wife dies, he and his two children are left struggling to continue with life in the neighbourhood that reminds them so much of her.

Benjamin instantly falls in love with an idyllic house set on 17 acres of Californian countryside, however, the property comes with an almighty catch, in that it is home to a zoo-full of exotic animals and an existing staff of live-in keepers.

A despondent Benjamin harnesses daughter Rosie’s enthusiasm and acts on “20 seconds of insane courage”, vowing to turn the failing zoo around.

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However, his new lease of life is met with opposition from his struggling teenage son and passionately determined head zoo-keeper, Kelly Foster (Scarlett Johansson).

The surprising 3/5 star-rating reflects my surprise that the film wasn’t a total flop.

The stomach-churningly schmaltzy trailer would be complete a turn-off for most, but We Bought a Zoo is a testament to how believable performances from a great cast can carry any film, no matter how sickly sweet the premise.

Super-star director, Cameron Crowe, has approached the real Benjamin Mee’s story with care to produce a heart-felt, self-aware, family film, without the gratuitous sentimentality and clich�-ridden script.

Johansson is stripped of her usual stone-cold vixen vibe, emanating authenticity and warmth, as does Damon, who is achingly adorable as doting dad Benjamin.

Extra touches, such as the subtly euphoric soundtrack by J�nsi of Sigur R�s, and carefully placed characters, most notably Elle Fanning as animal-lover Lily, pull everything together for this enchanting film.

Ashley Whittaker