Sunday, December 4, 2011

We Bought a Zoo

A recently widowed father of two (Matt Damon) quits his job, sells his house, and seeks the perfect location to heal his aching family. He finds this setting in the form of a closed down, dilapidated zoo which where, with the help of the assorted staff and the beautiful head groundskeeper (Scarlett Johansson), hopes to restore it to its former glory. "We Bought a Zoo" is overly mawkish fare from writer/director Cameron Crowe who has shown he is capable of making sentimental films that spare the sap (i.e. "Say Anything...", "Jerry Maguire", "Almost Famous"). The screenplay is a by-the-numbers "Field of Dreams" type of story and Crowe pours it on at every chance he gets. Matt Damon is appealing here as a middle aged, maudlin father trying to relate to his kids while throwing everything he has at his grand undertaking. I also liked Thomas Haden Church as Damon's disapproving brother. Yet, Scarlett Johansson again overreaches in an unnatural, forced performance. Also the members of her zookeeping troupe are standard and bland. I think that the material for "We Bought a Zoo" could have made for an engaging family film, yet Crowe's kiddie geared treatment of it as ideal fodder for the Disney channel.
note: the musically inclined Crowe has provided a nice soundtrack, which makes this ride a little smoother.