Posted by on Dec 26, 2011 in Family, Film, Movie reviews | 9 comments

We-bought-a-zoo-movie-poster-2
Alone on Christmas day this year, our family decided to catch an afternoon movie; I might've been the only one moved to tears
5 times
 
don't judge me
but everyone walked away praising this movie that exceeded already-high expectation.

Here's why:

 

10.  It's truly family friendly. 

For those with a need to know, I recall two occurrences of "adult" words; one, an honest portrayal of father-son conflict and woundedness (appropriate to the scene), the other an almost shocking utterance by seven-year-old Rosie, said by her in ignorance to make a point, when a few other choices would have worked just as well.  (ADDED:  A commentor shared one of her friend's opinions who had said "the cursing was out of control."  While I don't agree with that harsh of a characterization (and I have older children), language IS one of the reasons the film earned a PG rating; please consult Bob Hoose's review for a word-by-word count of "Crude/Profane Language.")

9.  Rosie Mee. 

It's the first time I've been introduced to Maggie Elizabeth Jones, and we can only hope she has the foundation and family support to remain sane; it would be a crying shame if she morphs into a Lindsay Lohan or Miley Cyrus.  Maggie's a stinkin' adorable, little finger-wrapping, scene-stealing charmer.  Her sparkle and shine could illumine Manhattan.  She's perfection as Rosie.

8.  Well told story.

The first time I saw the trailer for We Bought a Zoo, I thought it was comedy; it's not.  A family needs to heal.  A father needs to learn how to hear his son and build their relationship.  A boy meets girl.  Zookeepers love their job and want to keep it.  Teamwork.  Camaraderie.  Conflict.  Bad guys.  Good guys.  Director Cameron Crowe invited me into a story I cared about.

7.  Great cast.

All the characters mattered to me.  I liked 'em.  They played their roles well without resorting to cliche (mostly).  Scarlett Johannson toned down the heat for her role as Chief Zookeeper, and I loved Angus Macfadyen (a spirits drinking, large-living Scottish zookeeper), J.B. Smoove (an endearing realtor), Colin Ford, (a broken-hearted, artistic and misunderstood teen), Kym Whitley (a Home Depot cashier with a timely word of encouragement).  Even brother Thomas Haden Church evolved believably from dissenter to supporter. 

6.  Matt Damon.

How can anyone not be a fan?  From his award-winning debut writing and acting in Good Will Hunting, to Saving Private Ryan, the Oceans trilogy, the Bourne series and the disturbing The Talented Mr. Ripley, he's money at the box office.  But his success isn't rooted in a pretty face, he has the ability to become The Father (or The Spy or The Soldier), not an actor playing the role.  In Zoo, I feel Benjamin Mee's pain, I understand his challenges and I believe his tears are real. 

5.  The Animals

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!  From my earliest Wonderful World of Walt Disney movies on TV Sunday nights when I was a child, I loved features with animals.  The wilder, the better.  Here, each one will tell their own story…and I could almost smell that bear's bad breath and feel his nasty spit!

4.  No sex or nudity.

I guess this goes along with family friendly, but can I just state for the record how thankful I am no one got naked, no one even implied naked, and no kisses reached the tonsils. 

3.  Kids were KIDS

In keeping with the above, I am SO glad director Cameron Crowe went with a hug when most directors would have gone with First Kiss when this scene rolled around.  That was refreshingly unexpected but greatly appreciated. 

2.  Great quotes

"I like the animals…but I love the humans.
~ Duncan Mee

"You don't want me. I'm filled with Scotch, bitterness and impure thoughts!"
~ Peter MacCready in confronting a lip-smacking lion

"You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it."
~ Benjamine Mee (I bet this sentiment becomes one many will come to live by :).)

1.  The last scene.

I can't recall the last two words of a movie being more perfect.  I can't remember a scene demonstrating love and family healing better than this.  Poignant, heart-stirring, redemptive and satisfying, it was a wonderful conclusion to this engaging story. 

We-Bought-A-Zoo-Tiger-Poster
Your turn:  Have you seen the movie?  Share your thoughts!  I'd love to hear any movie recommendations you have to offer.

 

Buy the book that inspired the movie!

 

Linked at Oh Amanda's Top Ten Tuesday, too.


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