We Bought A Zoo

December 20, 2011 by staff 

We Bought A ZooWe Bought A Zoo, There is a now-clich?©d Tom Cruise speech in Cameron Crowe’s 1996 megahit, Jerry Maguire, which begins: “We live in a cynical world.” While the merits of that film, and that line, are now debatable, there is one unquestionable truth in Cruise’s statement: it truly sums up Cameron Crowe’s directorial ethos. Crowe believes that cynicism abounds and it is up to good people to rail against it. The entirety of Crowe’s canon, from his debut Say Anything to his masterpiece Almost Famous (and even the tepid Elizabethtown), are films that challenge the very notion of snarky post-modern cynicism. Crowe’s latest film, We Bought a Zoo, continues that tradition of sweet positivity in a world dominated by bleak outlooks and low expectations.

We Bought a Zoo tells the story of recently widowed Benjamin Mee who, along with his children, sets upon the task of purchasing, repairing and running a dilapidated zoo. The film is based on the true story of a family who purchased a zoo in England – though Crowe’s film is set in California and apparently takes other dramatic liberties quite freely. The Mees are played by Matt Damon who is reliably likable, handsome and believable as Benjamin the patriarch-in-mourning, Colin Ford (as Dylan) who often looks uncannily similar to Damon and Maggie Elizabeth Jones as Rosie, Benjamin’s young daughter. The children are both good in their roles as kids dealing with an unimaginable loss. Damon’s Benjamin is a adventurous and driven man who is seen in the beginning of the film as a globetrotting, international journalist. Mee’s love for thrills and distaste for normalcy make him more of a fatherly icon as opposed to an involved and active dad. The loss of his wife causes Mee to reexamine his priorities and he decides to quit his job, relocate to the country and ultimately to purchase a zoo that was closed for lack of funding. Young Rosie loves the idea of the fresh start amongst the menagerie but the older, teenage Dylan is incensed and spends his time making disturbing drawings of death and destruction. The film chronicles Benjamin’s struggles to reconnect with Dylan, win the favor of the zoo’s quirky staff, and learn his new caretaker trade – all while he blows through all of the family’s savings to bring the zoo up to code.

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