Film Review: We Bought a Zoo

Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo offers a healthy dollop of schmaltz, but is a rewarding ride. Despite its saccharine nature, the film is sufficiently enjoyable.

Following the death of his wife, writer Benjamin Mee struggles to balance looking after his two children with work. When son Dylan gets into trouble at school, Benjamin decides a fresh start is what the family need. Benjamin and his daughter find the perfect new home, albeit with a complication…

We Bought a Zoo offers few surprises in terms of narrative. What makes the film work is good writing, and some great performances. Although the plot is predictable, there is enough in the screenplay to hook viewers. The characters in We Bought a Zoo are believable and have enough depth to make the audience care about their fortunes. Moreover, interactions between family members appears completely natural, both in arguments and in the more tender moments.

Despite the setting, We Bought a Zoo is really about the human characters rather than the animals. Although there are a couple of cute moments involving animal mishaps, the emphasis is placed firmly on the Mee family. The zoo merely acts as a trigger for these interactions to occur.

Crowe’s direction is good. We Bought a Zoo has a very polished look to it. The more imaginary sequences blend well into the real ones. The themes of loss and moving on are most apparent at these times, with the film painting rather an acute picture of the later stages of grief.

Matt Damon is on form as protagonist Benjamin. The actor has great chemistry with his onscreen children, making a very believable family. Colin Ford is great as teenager Dylan, while Maggie Elizabeth Jones is very cute as younger sister Rosy. Elle Fanning stands out in a supporting role.

We Bought a Zoo is a pleasant watch, but one with the necessary emotional depth.