Two of my favorite movies are “Almost Famous” and “Elizabethtown” so when I heard that Cameron Crowe was back at work on a new movie I almost jumped for joy. When I found out it starred Matt Damon and Thomas Hayden Church I was downright giddy.
The premise is a little hokey (although it is based on a true story). Damon is Benjamin Mee, a widower with two kids who decides a change of scenery will help mend his broken family. He finds the perfect house in the country, only problem is that it’s a zoo, literally.
“We Bought a Zoo” isn’t perfect but I still enjoyed myself. It’s a heartwarming story even if it is overly sentimental and a bit cloying at times. It is helped by a good cast and a funny script.
I like Damon as an actor and he’s always dependable for a strong performance. Whether he’s playing a genius janitor, or amnesiac spy, or widowed father of two, he’s likable and believable.
And here he’s backed by a strong cast. Church plays Damon’s supportive brother, even if he does think his little bro has lost his mind. Scarlett Johansson is head zookeeper and more than a little worried about her new novice boss. But the real scene-stealer is relative new-comer Maggie Elizabeth Jones as Damon’s daughter Rosie.
The rest of the cast is rounded out by Patrick Fugit, Elle Fanning, and John Michael Higgins, who is excellent as the zoo inspector who seems to have it in for the zoo. Not to mention a slew of critters large and small.
It’s the underlying message of family and connection that is the heart of the film. That message is drilled into the audience a little too much but it’s easily forgiven. All of Crowe’s films tend to center around on character who is a force of pure positivity in a dark, cynical world.
Crowe always puts a lot of time into his films story and characters. But he puts an equal amount of time into the soundtrack. You may hate the movie, but you can never deny the the music is just right. (I guess writing for “Rolling Stone” helps develop your musical tastes.)
The soundtrack for “Zoo,” unlike his other movies, is by one artist, Jónsi, the frontman of Icelandic rock band Sigur Rós. It’s a sweeping orchestral sound that complements the film’s story and mood perfectly.
Though it may not be my favorite Crowe movie, “We Bought a Zoo” is a good family-friendly film. It may cause a few eye rolls at its cheesier moments but you’ll leave with a smile on your face.