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'We Bought A Zoo' Starring Matt Damon

A movie directed by Cameron Crowe.

< read all 6 reviews

I't's a zoo alright.

  • Dec 29, 2011


Written by Aline Brosh McKenna and Cameron Crowe

Directed by Cameron Crowe

Starring Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson and Thomas Hayden Church


In 2006, a man by the name of Benjamin Mee bought a zoo alongside his mother and his brother. He had no experience with animals and, in fact, his offer to buy the zoo was originally rejected based on his inexperience. The zoo had been closed earlier that year and it was Mee’s plan to refurbish and reopen to the public as soon as possible. His wife, Katherine, died after he and his family had already moved to the zoo but he soldiered on with his two young children and eventually brought the zoo back up to code. Mee’s story is unorthodox and inspirational and thanks to famed film director, Cameron Crowe, it has now been sucked of all genuine heart and humanity and turned into a ridiculous and laughable “true story” film called WE BOUGHT A ZOO.


Buying a ticket to WE BOUGHT A ZOO is less about buying into what actually happened and more into a Hollywood idea of what should have happened in order for audiences to understand the inspiration in Mee’s journey. On screen, Mee is played by Matt Damon, who cannot seem to choose a decent project these days. For the purposes of the film, Mee’s wife is already dead when we meet him. In fact, it is her absence in his life that propels him to buy the zoo in the first place. He is looking to find meaning in his life again and boy does he need it. Crowe paints Mee’s life as one big giant cliche - from desperate single mothers bringing him lasagna six months after his wife’s passing to his brother (Thomas Hayden Church) making broad suggestions that he just needs to get back out there. Even his eldest son is painting gothic imagery in school so you know that things are not good. Hence, the zoo.


Thank goodness for Damon. He elevates past the triteness of every scene to reveal true pain and difficulty in dealing with the loss of his wife and the scary, new direction of his life. Crowe frames him in close-up so often, it is impossible to miss any part of his emotional journey but despite Damon’s best efforts, he cannot save WE BOUGHT A ZOO from Crowe’s completely crazy approach to the rest of the film. Almost every character other than Damon’s is an exaggerated farce. (You cannot convince me for one second that supposed zookeeper, Scarlett Johansson, knows anything about wild animals.) Perhaps this is meant to show how bizarre the world seems in Damon’s state of grief but it really only comes off as disingenuous and distracting. Benjamin Mee is a real person who really bought a zoo but all Crowe seems to see is the movie, not the man, and he barely has a handle on that as it is.

Thanks for reading.
LUNCH rating is out of 10.

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I't's a zoo alright. I't's a zoo alright. I't's a zoo alright.

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December 30, 2011
uh-oh, I was getting excited because of the positive reviews here, but seems like I need to temper my expectations. Sounds like this missed the thought of the source material?
January 11, 2012
I agree with your comments. The movie would have been much better focusing on the real man and set in England.
More We Bought a Zoo reviews
review by . May 27, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
A Charming, Heartwarming And Engaging Film For The Whole Family
It's not often that a movie comes out suitable for the whole family to watch that will actually keep you engaged, interested and wanting more, with characters that are just as appealing - well, this one is it. Directed by Cameron Crowe and starring Matt Damon, this is a true story of a single father who decides he needs to make a major change for his family - he buys a broken down and struggling zoo to renovate even though he knows nothing about the animals living there, or how to even run a …
review by . January 11, 2012
Sentimental tale
Matt Damon stars as a recent widower and father who decides his family needs a big change to help them deal with their grief. He buys a run-down private zoo and, with the help of the zookeeper (Scarlett Johansson), brings it and his family back to life.      If you like Damon and Johansson, you'll like this movie. They're not my favorites, however, so I found them a bit annoying and their characters idealized and unbelievable. The romantic tension between them takes up …
review by . December 21, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
'We Bought A Zoo' 'Two Jews On Film' Applaud Cameron Crowe's New Family Dramedy (Video)
         By Joan Alperin Schwartz      'Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise something great will happen'...Ben (Matt Damon) says this terrific line to his teenage son, Dylan (Colin Ford)...Ben got the line from his older brother, Duncan (Thomas Haden Church) and...      It's just one of the many awesome lines of dialogue in Cameron Crowe's new film …
Quick Tip by . May 28, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Matt Damon was the reason I went for the movie. The little girl (starring Maggie Elizabeth Jones) is who caught my heart! A movie that leaves you with the fuzzy feelings when you leave the theater. Nothing original, except the idea of living in a zoo!
review by . December 27, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         In August of 2006, the Mee family of Devon, England – consisting of DIY columnist and animal lover Benjamin, his brother Duncan, his mother Amelia, and his two children – invested £1.1 million of their own money into the Dartmoor Wildlife Park, a local landmark which opened in 1968 and was forced to close thirty-eight years later after falling on hard times. The eleven-month renovation, which required not only an additional £500,000 …
About the reviewer
Joseph Belanger ()
Ranked #24
Hello Lunchers. I am a thirty-something guy making his way in Toronto. I am a banker by day and a film critic the rest of the time. Sensitive, sharp and sarcastic are just a few words that start with … more
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Movies, Comedy, Drama, Animals, Family, Love, Matt Damon, True Story, Scarlett Johansson, Loss, Thomas Haden Church, Elle Fanning, Relationship, Angus Macfaden, Colin Ford, We Bought A Zoo, Cameron Crowe


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