Movie Review :We bought a Zoo

WE BOUGHT A ZOO is a PICK “Sweet and Inspiring” but “should be PG-13….. Read my review at Kidspickflicks !!!!!

We Bought a Zoo tells the loosely-adapted story of a certain widower, Benjamin Mee, skillfully played by Matt Damon. Dealing with the death of his wife and his rebel son Dylan (talented Colin Ford) who is expelled from school, he is convinced they are heading down the wrong road and starts anew. Like the title suggests, he buys a zoo, where his 7-year-old daughter Rosie (adorable Maggie Elizabeth Jones) is truly happy. There, he meets a skeleton of a crew and more than 200 species of animals. By persevering and listening to his heart instead of his logical brother (Thomas Haden Church), he lives up to his motto of, “All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise you something great will come of it,” and successfully reopens the zoo in spite of the overwhelming circumstances.

It sounds like an out-of-this-world storyline, but really, it’s not. In fact, I found it relatable to me. We Bought a Zoo could easily be split into two films that would not be complete without each other. For instance, No.1: a man looking for a new life finds himself making the leap from city to a zoo where he falls in love with the helpful zookeeper, Kelly Foster (Scarlett Johansson) – or No. 2: Benjamin repairs the relationship with his son Dylan and learns that “letting go” may not relieve his sorrow. I saw both of each, although more of the latter.

The scene in which they fight is intense, and only because it seemed real. Lost in his own grief, Benjamin realizes that he has been neglecting his son who also needs “special attention” along with many of the animals on the farm. I loved to see the mending of their relationship, and at one point,We Bought a Zoo became a tearjerker.

The movie has an unusual ending, in which many other film productions would have Benjamin “let go” of his late wife and pursue Kelly. I can’t say too much without revealing the rare finale, but it was fresh and took a very different path than what Hollywood is used to.

We Bought a Zoo should have been a PG-13 movie. I suppose it is acceptable as PG, but I don’t think elementary-school children are the main audience. There are quite a few cuss words and the storyline is a bit too mature. Some pictures that Dylan draws are very violent and a bit disturbing. Even so, I liked director Cameron Crowe’s choices in making this movie – it has an underlying message along with parallels that connect to our very real everyday life.

It really is sweet and inspiring, but what I really loved was that the animals’ predicaments reflect the humans’. When Benjamin fixes the zoo’s enclosures and learns to “let go” of some animals, while holding on to others, it’s almost like he mends and fixes his own problems along with the relationship with his son. There are many beautifully expressed metaphors between the zoo animals and the humans. This is a 4-star movie, a PICK!, and for all ages 11 and above.

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About Cassandra Hsiao

Cassandra Hsiao is a sophomore at Yale University. Her college application essay has reached millions across the world and factored into her acceptance by all 8 Ivy League Universities. She’s an award-winning on-camera & print journalist in entertainment and character-driven long-form narrative. As a playwright, she has seen her work come to life across the United States. Instagram/Twitter: @cassandrahsiao Facebook: Blog:

Posted on November 28, 2011, in Movie Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I think matt’s new movie is giving away 4 tickets to the zoo, not too shabby!!! Not sure when the sweeps end though

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