Saturday, January 7, 2012

'We Bought A Zoo' is Harmless

Two and a half stars

When it comes to family movies, I try to tone it down a bit unless it really deserves a bad review. “We Bought A Zoo” doesn’t really deserve a bad review. Film critics tend to take themselves a tad too seriously when it comes to certain films, and I’m trying to avoid that in some cases. I don’t like critics who come off as snobs when it comes to pictures that don’t deserve that kind of malice.

One of the displeasures of film critcism is criticizing a film that’s really harmless. The name of the film is “We Bought A Zoo”, and it’s directed by Cameron Crowe. Cameron Cowe has made some wonderful films like “Almost Famous” and “Jerry MaGuire”. “We Bought A Zoo”is a pure family picture. It’s harmless, and not bad, yet it’s also predicatable and a tad bit uninteresting.

The story is about a journalist named Benjamin Mae (Matt Damon).He has a 14 year old son named Dylan (Colin Ford), who gets expelled from school after trying to steal money. He has a cute seven year old daughter named Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones), who is still trying to understand the death of their mother. He decides they need a new start and goes searching for a new house. After searching, he decides on a house. The real estate agent tells him that it’s a bit complicated. What’s so complicated about this place he asks. It’s a zoo, the real estate agent says . Being an adventurer, and an journalist, he decides that it’s worth the chance. In fact, when Kelly (Scarlette Johansson), the young zoo keeper who runs the place, asks him why he would take a chance doing something he knows nothing about, he smiles and answers “Why not?”

I guess there’s something to be said for the guy’s sense of adventure. He wants a new adventure for his family and says that throughout the movie. So he arrives at the zoo and meets the crew. The crew has a guy with a long beard and one character who has a monkey on his shoulder. That’s about how interesting the crew is. When there, his son meets Lily (Elle Fanning), who’s thirteen. Dylan and Lily automatically click, and we know the plot requires they will kiss. Also, we know the plot requires that Benjamin and Kelly will get together. For the zoo aspect, the
film has some nice animals in it. Although, the real plot of the film is Benjamin and his family trying to get over the death of his wife. The film is pretty predictable.

So, as they are trying to get over their mother, the zoo is faced with the problem of the upcoming inspection. The inspector (John Michael Higgins) is a bit of a jerk and the zoo tries to pull together to get approved. I understand this is really a kid’s movie, and I suspect the kids will like it. There’s some scenes in the movie of Dylan and his dad fighting. Yes, his son is a pain, but I guess you have to understand they are going through a tough time. There’s really not that much interesting plot. I mean, I can see people finding this film charming but it’s really nothing I haven’t seen before in another film. So, basically, take your 12 year old. It’s fine. Grab yourself a big bag of pop corn. If you and your family want a film that’s not going to offend, and basically be fine, than this should be O.K. I mean, afterall, this film is titled “We Bought A Zoo”.

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