Review: Spending time with “The ZOO” is a good investment

We Bought a Zoo: A Good Investment
By Katherine M.

we-bought-a-zoo-posterWe Bought a Zoo
Cameron Crowe
Vinyl Films (2011)

Cameron Crowe brings a true heartfelt story to life through film.

We Bought a Zoo is a movie based on a true story. Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon), a recently widowed man decides to start his life over to help with the grieving process. He is not the typical widower. He is a journalist with a craving for adventure. This causes him to impulsively move his family to a zoo. He was motivated by the reaction of his young daughter, Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) to the animals. His teenage son, Dylan (Colin Ford) feels differently about the situation. The zoo staff, including the head zoo keeper Kelly (Scarlett Johansson) and her cousin Lilly (Elle Fanning) help renovate the zoo to re-open it. Being with the animals and his family as well as dealing with an old dying tiger help him work through his grief. Lessons of love, overcoming obstacles and finding courage are explored in this movie directed by Cameron Crowe that will tug on the heartstrings.

Every scene in the movie has strong feelings coming through. Matt Damon and Colin Ford portrayed a father son relationship very well. The normal difficulties and disagreements between teenagers and parents were shown as well as the magnified emotions of the loss of a loved one. In one scene Dylan overhears his father say how Dylan has his mother’s eyes and it’s hard to see him look angry. Dylan misinterprets his words causing a fight. Benjamin becomes visibly frustrated and begins yelling about Dylan’s moodiness and lack of activity or care in his life. He lists the things he could help him with. Dylan then yells back “Help me!”. The emotion in his voice and face was very convincing. You could clearly see the pain and struggling of trying to hold back his tears and deal with the grief of his mother’s death.

The dialogue was very accurate for the characters and the situation. Dylan acts and talks like a typical moody teenager. Words such as whatever are frequently used. Rosie speaks innocently but with knowledge of suffering. At one point a neighbour’s party keeps her awake and sitting in her footie pajamas she tells her father their happy is to loud. The lighting and camera shots came together to give a very pleasant feel. There were many shots of the different animals and scenery of the zoo on nice sunny days. When Rosie first meets the animals it shows her in a field. The lighting gets brighter looking almost enchanting. There were also darker shots that appeared more realistic than fairy tale like, such as shots of Dylan holding his mother’s picture crying or Benjamin dealing with the stress of the zoo. Cameron Crowe did a good job of telling a convincing story based on a real life situation.

The soundtrack of the movie really added to it. At most parts the music was light and upbeat to enhance the scene without taking away from it. Animal sounds were common, reflecting the atmosphere of a zoo. The music could be intense or soft depending on what would best compliment the scene, although sometimes it was switched. In one scene Benjamin was remembering happy times as a family with his wife. It flips back and forth from the happy memories to his sad emotions over the loss. The happy music continues giving it an interesting feel.

We Bought a Zoo was a very good movie. It wasn’t an action packed thriller but is definitely worth watching. It did have its funny moments as well as happy and sad. There wasn’t that much suspense but it did have unexpected events to make keep it interesting. Even what seems to be a typical romance between Benjamin Mee and Kelly has its twists in different directions. It was a pleasant, inspirational and heart-warming movie. It shows how life is short and to make what you do matter. The importance of courage and “why not” are stressed. The characters learn how to move on to the future without forgetting the past. Cameron Crowe lets us feel as lost and ungrounded as the Mee family at the beginning but as satisfied and content at the end. The story wasn’t exactly as it happened. There were sub plots added but the main message of healing with the help of the animals came through.

By Katherine M. a grade 12 student at FHS.

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