We Bought a Zoo sounded very cute and the previews made me laugh. I almost took the kids to see this movie a couple of times, but instead we saw the new animated flicks of the moment. Finally, through a strange turn of events, I ended up going to see this with my wife.
I knew this was based on a true story and thus expected at least some level of sentimentality but I was surprised at how "head on" this film addressed some of the harder emotional/relationship issues.
For those who don't know, the premise isn't just that some eccentric young buck (Benjamin, as played by Matt Damon) decides to spend his inheritance and buy and update a run down zoo. It's not the whimsical slapstick comedy somebody might expect from the Kevin James movie Zookeeper (which I still haven't seen, but I'm pretty sure it's not a good comparison to this one).
Benjamin buys the zoo almost as a sort of last resort "shock to the system" therapy to force his family back to normal and help them all move on. Once he buys the zoo though, he also takes on the baggage that comes with a run down zoo on the verge of being closed down by the US Society of Zoos (or some such regulatory agency). Before long he's not only struggling to hold his own family together but also to keep the zoo afloat and keep his new "zoo family" alive and well (and the "zoo family" is a lot of fun).
Knowing that this is based on a true story made it all the more amazing to me. The writing was fun and clever. The acting was fabulous (so many awesome performances) and the story is emotionally charged without becoming cheesy. It's a nice feel-good movie that will pull at your heartstrings.
4 out of 5 stars
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