The idea of a man who wants to get away from all the places, things and events that remind him of his deceased wife is a powerful one. That he wants it so bad that he moves his family to a property that just happens to be a zoo is just the unique proposition required to take the idea into this-should-be-a-major-motion-picture territory. And when Cameron Crowe (writer of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and writer/director of Say Anything and Jerry Maguire) signs on to make the film, the hope is for something special.
Alas, it was not to be.
We Bought A Zoo plays like a made-for-television weepie. Too much random talking between uninteresting characters—with the exception of leading man Benjamin Mee (played winningly by Matt Damon)—and not enough real hurdles in the actual refurbishing and reopening of the zoo means that there really is not enough ‘big screen’ drama in the movie. Colin Ford is alright as Benjamin’s son Dylan but that’s it for the cast. Scarlett Johansson doesn’t seem to know what to do with her hands, face, or the animals that co-star with her. The rest of the cast is just too unmemorable to warrant name-checking. And sadly, that’s all there is to the movie version of a story that someone actually lived, and then turned into a bestselling book.
Final Analysis: Mr. Crowe’s career will always be celebrated for his successful and enduring works but it bears mentioning that We Bought A Zoo doesn’t end the dry spell that began somewhere during the run time of Almost Famous and has dogged his work since.
My Advice: If it rolls up on TV while you’re lazing around, you might want to wait a bit before switching channels. But I really cannot recommend seeking this one out.