We Bought A Zoo [Celluloid Hero]
We Bought A Zoo (2011)
There's an old saying in Hollywood: "never work with children or animals." The idea is that both are unreliable, making filming stressful. If they end up being a success, they can steal the spotlight away from the star; if they are failures, it can take down a whole movie. Matt Damon took the risk and worked with both kids AND animals, and ended up with a mostly uninspired movie.
There is always difficulty in doing a movie based on reality. The true story of Benjamin Mee was pretty unbelievable, so it's hard to tell how much was embellished for the sake of Hollywood and how much was real. There was a good focus on the pain the family was going through after losing a wife and mother. Mee had a 14-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter, and for children of that age to lose a mother is devastating.
I actually think that the actors (human and non) were pretty good, but Cameron Crowe's direction was lacking. Crowe makes all of his movies with heavy focus on the music, but all of his choices felt cliche and not really relating to the scene. Many of the actors seemed misused as well; it's a bit difficult to tell how much was the fault of the actors and how much was the fault of the director.
Overall there was a bit of unevenness to the whole movie. There were very heavy, very serious conflicts between father and son, both unsure of how to deal with their grief. These moments would be countered with a wise-cracking brother and a loud drunk Scottish zookeeper. I wasn't expecting a heavy drama, but if you went into this movie expecting a light-hearted family movie, you might have gotten a few moments you weren't ready for.
I give credit to the cinematography; it wasn't anything groundbreaking, but it did give some great visuals and great shots of animals. The directing and some of the acting, though, pull "We Bought A Zoo" down a few notches.
On the Celluloid Hero scale, "We Bought A Zoo" gets a 4 out of 10.
[Each week, Varacchi explores cinema from his own perspective. From indie to foreign to mainstream, he'll watch it all. Suggestions and recommendations are welcome, leave a comment below. CLICK HERE for the Celluloid Hero archives]