Monday, 26 March 2012

185, We Bought a Zoo

There is something warm and fluffy about a good true story.  Take 'The Blind Side'.  Now tell me that movie did not make you leave the cinema just feeling bit great about yourself?  I know it did, and the best bit was it was true, okay - probably over romanticised to make it more 'Hollywood' friendly but it definitely ticked a lot of boxes.  Well, We Bought a Zoo should hopefully do exactly the same.

Matt Damon plays a widowed dad, left parenting two kids after the sad passing of his beloved wife.  After a few months of wading in despair, purposely avoiding their old haunts, being daily accosted by the single mum's on the school run with requests of dinner dates and re-heated lasagna he decides to up sticks and move to somewhere new, away from the past and onto greener pastures. 

Damon and his totally adorable 6yr old daughter fall in love with a country pad (against the quite hapless but comedic letting agents advise) that comes with plenty of land and a fully operational albeit closed, Zoo, complete with a full compliment of volunteer staff and a pretty sexy head keeper (Scarlett Johansson).  One set of life savings later and Damon is master and chief of the whole place and sets about re-building it to its former glory with the dreams of a Summer opening and a chance to really make a business and home for his family and those in his employment.

There are so many different plot lines here it does feel that one mans real life could not really be such a roller-coaster from Matt upping and leaving his high paid journalist job to become a Zoo Keeper / Owner to the eldest son, at a point of sheer loathing for his dad who took him away from his friends.  Then there are the loyal Zoo workers, all still arriving daily even without a pay check at the end of the month because of their love for the animals and the moody Zoo moderator who they have to convince to sign off the Zoo for re-opening. 

For me, this many twists and turns did not matter - it was a very enjoyable story and one made better by the brilliant acting of Damon and Johansson in the lead roles but backed up with some pretty impressive performances from the kids (Colin Ford and Maggie Elizabeth Jones) as well as the mostly non-committed brother, played by Thomas Hayden-Church.

My only negative is it does feel a little long.  I'm not sure of the exact time but I was getting a bit fidgety towards the end.  If you like your love stories though this will tick a few boxes.  There are relationships all over the place mainly between Damon and Johansson but more distinctively between Damon's son and Johansson's niece who works there 'off the books' and does come across well as the naive country girl and who falls quite deeply in love with our moody city lad.

The absolute star of this movie though is not the Lions, Bears or Tigers.  Its not even Matt Damon or Scarlett Johansson but its the remarkably adorable performance from Maggie Elizabeth Jones.  This is her first credited role and I challenge any of you not to have the total "Ahhhhh" factor when she is on screen.  A great little talent who defiantly shone through against a pretty impressive A-list.

Again, there are bits that seem to have been over romanticised but it even 50% of the story is true then its quite a compliment to the Mee family who too this day, still run, maintain and live at the Rosemoor Wildlife Park in California. 

What does make me chuckle though - and will do to long after this day are the critics / fact finders who actually take the time to write the following;   'The movie continuously refers to the zoo's upcoming opening day as Saturday, July 7, 2010. July 7, 2010 was actually a Wednesday'.  Really?  Have you nothing better to do? 

See it and love it - This is a great great family movie.