Thursday, October 30, 2014

We Bought a Zoo

We Bought a Zoo; comedy, USA, 2011; D: Cameron Crowe, S: Matt Damon, Colin Ford, Maggie Elizabeth Jones, Scarlett Johansson, Elle Fanning, Thomas Haden Church

After his wife died, Benjamin Mee decides to quit his job and resettle with his two kids, the 14-year old Dylan and 7-year old Rosie. They browse for numerous houses, until they find the right one - the only catch is, it comes with a Zoo. Benjamin thus accepts the challenge and moves in with his kids: he decides to use the remaining Zoo keepers, including Kelly and Peter, to restructure the enclosures and prepare the animals for the July opening, which would repay the high costs of the Zoo. In the end, Benjamin manages to open the Zoo in time and pass the inspection, while the visitors make the thing profitable.

In the 90s, Cameron Crowe established himself as the modern B. Wilder - except that his protagonists were young adults - when he made films that were both comically and emotionally satisfying. "We Bought a Zoo" is a good film, but, alas, just as it was the case with "Elizabethtown", it is not quite clear why such a thin story warranted the attention of such a high profile author in the first place. The first 30 minutes are excellent and gather momentum, because the interaction between Benjamin and his kids manages to generate emotional engagement and wit (Benjamin reacting to Dylan's repeated use of the word 'whatever' with: "You know what? 'Whatever' is the laziest word of the 20th century! I've had it with whatever! I don't wanna hear it again in this century, ever again. 'Whatever' is over!"), whereas at least one dialogue by Duncan ("Human interaction is a good thing. take it from a guy who spent six months on a commercial fishing boat in Bali trying to find himself... You know what I found? I miss people.") is a perfect Cameron Crowe line. However, when the main plot sets in, some 30 minutes into the film, instead of taking off, the movie starts moving a gear slower until the end. The adventures of protagonists taking care of animals are all right, yet never have that full swing: it seems as if Crowe wanted to take more care about his human characters, but lost them along the way in the flora and fauna of the Zoo. Overall, it is a good film, yet one simply wonders how Scarlett Johansson and Matt Damon would have interacted had they received the true Crowe treatment as Dorothy and Jerry in "Jerry Maguire" or as Janet and Cliff in "Singles".


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