Swanner: You know you’re getting old when the first question you have is why the hell would anyone buy a zoo? You have no history with caring for animals or even working with people who do. So why buy a zoo? Director Cameron Crowe tells us the story of Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) and his family who after a tragedy decide to buy and re-open a struggling zoo. I can understand wanting to make a change but shoveling tiger crap would never cross my mind as something different to do. Is it just me?
Judd: Would I buy a zoo? Absolutely, as long as I could eat the animals that came with it. Lions and tigers and bears, yum yum! If I had to keep the animals, then no, I would not buy a zoo. But then I don’t have two world-weary, city-fied children who need to regain their innocence and joy. We Bought a Zoo is a Hallmark movie about just that. A father and son rebuilding a broken relationship, and a little girl to wise for her years.
Swanner: I know this was based on a true story written by the actual Benjamin Mee, but Cameron Crowe doing this film seemed out of place. Has he had children, or is something making him want to move away from smart romantic comedies to this gooey family stuff? I was also surprised that the script was written by Crowe and one of my favorite romantic comedy writers Aline Brosh McKenna (27 Dresses). There wasn’t anything smart and funny in the script at all. Crowe also usually does a nice job with his supporting casts, but this time the cast seemed overly animated, which I found a bit distracting. Was he channeling Disney? Damon and Scarlett Johansson carried the leads well, but there just wasn’t much to do. I’m really talking myself out of the film.
Judd: We Bought a Zoo is the prime example of why I don’t like these kinds of family films. They’re boring and I’m not instantly charmed by cutsie kids, so the lazy gimmick of a mugging little girl doesn’t blind me to the tepid story. The only scene that felt somewhat genuine was when Benjamin and his son have it out in the hallway. The rest of it was barely better than New Year’s Eve.
Swanner: The last act was the only part of the movie that worked for me. I know families will be charmed by the googly eyed daughter and cute animals so I don’t speak for them. The first two thirds of the film were a bore. As I mentioned, I was pondering why someone would buy a zoo because I didn’t care why Damon did. If you don’t like “family” movies pass this one by and consider yourself lucky and diabetes in hand for another day.
Judd: I agreed. Not only is the movie a bore, it’s a 2 hour and 4 minute bore. I don’t know if the tykes will get restless, but I know I sure did.