We Bought a Zoo is based on a true story, and book of the same name by Briton Benjamin Mee.
The real Mee bought and moved into a 16-hectare zoo in Devon, England, with his wife, two children, brother and mother in 2006. The Mees bought the place after they found out that its 200 exotic animals were going to be shot if a buyer wasn't found. The zoo was reopened the next year and Mee wrote a newspaper column about the experience.
In the movie directed by Cameron Crowe, starring Matt Damon as Mee, the zoo becomes an animal park in America, 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.) This is not the sort of film to offer drama or surprises; it's all a bit formulaic what with cute kids, troubled teens and a predictable romance. Nevertheless, its positive, uplifting story makes it a good choice for the festive season.
Damon's portrayal of a loving father desperately hoping to help his family move on with life is realistic, but Scarlett Johansson's passionate zookeeper Kelly Foster is nice but not memorable.
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 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.'