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.


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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

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