We Bought a Zoo Movie Review
The sappiness dial on this movie goes up to 11.
Yes, this movie was sappy like Natalie Portman is hot or the general movie going population is dumb. Does that hurt the movie? In one sense yes. However, if you saw any of the trailers and expected to be anything other than heartwarmed then your problems with perceptions run so deep you wouldn’t notice that your hair was on fire until someone shot you in the face with a fire extinguisher. This movie will play your emotional heartstrings like a cheap ukelele, evoking sadness, happiness, cuteness, frustration and (in the case of Scarlett Johansson and, assuming you are into men, Matt Damon) horniness. (11 Dial image courtesy of the Funny T Shirt category)
The story is, as the title subtlety implies, about a family that buys a zoo. It starts off with the father (Matt Damon-Good Will Hunting, the whole Bourne series) and his kids dealing with the recent death of his wife (Stephanie Szostak-the Devil Wears Prada, Dinner for Schmucks). His annoying 14 year old son (Colin Ford-Jack and the Beanstalk, Push) is dealing by acting out in passive aggressive ways and by drawing disturbing pictures all the time. His daughter Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones-Footloose) seems better adjusted but prone to telling strangers that her mommy died.
Let me just go on an aside and talk a bit about Maggie Elizabeth Jones. In this movie she is comprise of 100% pure weapons-grade cuteness. I can’t stress that enough. She is so cute your face will hurt from smiling every time she is on the screen or says something. Until she turns into another annoying teenage actress she will probably have a lock on every super cute child role for the next six years, and deservedly so. I am not really into other people’s kids, but was smiling every time she said something.
Anyway, the son Dylan gets booted out of school for stealing and the father Benjamin (who by the way, is being stalked by every hot woman in whatever town he lives in. I guess being a hot single widower with super cute kids is quite the turn on for women) decides they need a new start. He ends up buying the zoo based on his love of the house. He opts to get the zoo running again and meets the staff, including the super hot zookeeper Kelly Foster (Scarlett Johansson-Match Point, Iron Man 2, the Prestige) who falls into the Hollywood pit of the amazing girl who dedicated her life to animals rather than dating and getting a life, as well as a host of flat, two dimensional stereotypes ( just imagine the kind of hippies who want to work on a zoo for no money and you will have them nailed down). Her younger 13 year old sister Lilly (Elle Fanning-Super 8, Deja Vu, the Door in the Floor) lives there too and gains a crush for emo-Dylan. At that point the story more or less follows the very typical family-business-struggling-in-the-face-of-adversity Hollywood script. They are obstructed by a cartoonish antagonist in the form of USDA inspector Walter Ferris (John Micheal Higgins-Wag the Dog, Fun With Dick and Jane, Bad Teacher) who has to certify them before they open and a host of other incidental problems.
The stars. The movie does what it set out to do, which is yank your emotions around like a fish on a line before landing you in the heartwarming boat. One star. Rosie was painfully cute. One star. Good dialog. One star. Good direction. One star. The main characters in the form of Benjamin and Kelly felt really real, although their on screen romance felt a little artificial. One star. Lots of cute animals to look at. One star. At the end of the film you feel good and don’t feel like your time and money were wasted. Two stars. Total: eight stars.
The black holes. As real as Benjamin and Kelly felt, almost all the supporting characters felt really flat and artificial. The supporting characters in the Muppets felt more real. One black hole. Pacing really seemed to drag at times. One black hole. The story was predictable enough to set your clock to. One black hole. Total: three black holes.
A grand total of five stars. Not bad. Worth seeing with the qualifier that you are not looking for any chases, fights, explosions, or surprises of any kind. It really earns it’s PG rating. I don’t think any of the scenes are of such cinematographic brilliance that they require a large screen, so NetFlix is fine. On the other hand, this is a brilliant date movie, as your girl will love it and the little girl will have her thinking about a family for sure.
That’s it for now. I am working on my Nerdy Awards and think I will start them over the weekend. Nothing to see tonight, but I might actually do some nerd dating advice tomorrow. Some things that happened over New Years kind of got me thinking about it again. Look for that tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Thanks for reading. Talk to you soon.