Monday, December 12, 2011

We Bought a Zoo

"Ben's Zoo" was the subject of a BBC four part documentary in 2007 and is now making it to the big screen with "We Bought a Zoo" under the direction of Cameron Crowe who has been quiet since 2005. The story centers on Benjamin Mee and the 30-acre Dartmoor Zoological Park located in a small South West village of England. For the film adaptation the story shifts to the rolling hills north of Los Angeles in Thousand Oaks, California.

Recently widowed Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) is struggling with being a single parent and seeks an adventure with his children Dylan (Colin Ford) and Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones). Dylan fills the stereotype of the child that is desperately looking for attention to cope with the loss of his mother. So they leave the city and against the advice of his older brother Duncan (Thomas Haden Church) buy a zoo that is being run by Kelly (Scarlett Johannson). As the film progresses the relationship between Benjamin and Dylan solidifies through the symbolic nature of the zoo; and through a positive messages that flows throughout the film that if you give just 20 seconds of insane courage that something great will come from it. The performances from Maggie Elizabeth Jones and Thomas Hayden Church were well done providing just enough cuteness and comic humor to keep the movie uplifting.

There is a couple interesting casting choices for the employees of the zoo. Elle Fanning as the sister of Kelly and the love interest of Dylan seemed a bit forced and never works on an emotional level. She seemed more natural in "the Case". Perhaps it is just young actors trying to play more mature roles that come across as awkward on screen. However, Patrick Fugit who previously worked with Cameron Crowe on "Almost Famous" provided a surprisingly solid performance in a relatively small role.

The film is perfect for kids with the exception of its run time of just over two hours. There were a couple children in the screening and they were getting fidgety towards the end of the film, so that might be my biggest criticism of the film. It is your typical holiday film and with a couple jokes for the mature audience it is a quality family film. While this isn't the type of film that I usually see, it is still a 3 Quack film. So get the 20 seconds of courage it takes to buy your movie ticket for the holiday.

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