As someone who, doesn’t care much for movies featuring animals (no “Animal House” does not count), I felt comforted by the presence of an actor I admire, Matt Damon. Given the cheesy nature of the story, about a grieving widower with two kids who buys a zoo and learns a thing or two about life, having a great actor who can bring life and depth to his character is crucial. His character is haunted by memories of his wife, wherever he goes. His brother (Thomas Haden Church) advises him to start anew. To his daughter’s surprise and delight, a house-hunting leads them to an abandoned land that used to be a home to an animal park. Who are we kidding here? “We Bought A Zoo” is meant to please a family audience, and that it does. So in case you’re looking for something deeper, you might want to skip this one. Yet with a premise like this, it isn’t difficult to figure out where the story is headed most of the time. You can tell right from the start that the story will have a happy ending, and that the characters will “heal” and move on at some point. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The supporting cast includes Scarlett Johansson, who runs the zoo, Elle Fanning, as a girl who develops a crush on Damon’s son, Patrick Fugit (the guy from Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous”) as one of the zookeepers, and John Michael Higgins, as an arrogant state inspector. Given that, “We Bought A Zoo” feels long, perhaps too long, and can’t fully justify filling more than two hours time. It might be a minor problem, but it is a problem. And because of that, I can’t feign any great enthusiasm for “We Bought A Zoo” but it’s not bad, and gains a great deal from the presence of its amazing leading man, as played by Matt Damon. He alone makes it worth watching.
Categories: The Twenty-First Century