We Bought a Zoo (Film)

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 January, 2012, 12:00am


We Bought a Zoo is based on a book of the same name by Briton Benjamin Mee. It's about life in a 16-hectare zoo in Devon, England, where he moved in with his wife, two children, brother and mother in 2006.

The Mees bought the place after they heard that the 200 animals there would be put down if a buyer wasn't found. They re-opened the zoo the next year.

In the movie, directed by Cameron Crowe and starring Matt Damon as Mee, the zoo becomes an animal park in California, and the main character is trying to rebuild his life after his wife's death. (In real life, Mee's wife died after they moved in.) The film is formulaic, with cute kids, troubled teens and a predictable romance. Still, its positive, uplifting story makes it a good choice for the start of a new year.

Damon's portrayal of a loving father desperately hoping to help his family move on with life is realistic, but Scarlett Johansson's role as zookeeper Kelly Foster is a bit of a let-down. The stars of the show are the young actors - seven-year-old Maggie Jones as Rosie Mee and Colin Ford as her brother, Dylan. And Elle Fanning is just adorable as a farm girl.

The movie's message is summed up in one of Damon's lines: 'All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, and I guarantee you something great will happen.'