By Lauren Miliotis
A bereaved husband plans to make a fresh start with his two children by buying a broken-down zoo in this predictable but funny family film with just enough “aww” to not leave you wretching.
Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) is father to teenager Dylan (Colin Ford) and seven-year-old Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones). When rebellious Dylan gets himself expelled from school, and Benjamin quits his job, he decides it is time to get away from all the places that remind him of his recently deceased wife…and ends up with a zoo.
A zoo. A seven-year-old’s dream, a 13-year- old’s nightmare. The struggling zoo is saved by Benjamin, his small staff – including love interest Scarlett Johansson – and his dead wife, who left him with the wise words “why not?”
Why not indeed. The animals announce they are there before the estate agent does, and the decision to buy is made in the time it takes little Rosie to jump up and down and shout “yay!”
Leave the tissues at home
Fear not, the things that go wrong do not include all the animals dying so you are safe to leave the tissues at home. Benjamin is instead plagued by money problems – he never said he knew how to run a zoo, it is not his fault – a fallen tree and the Big Bad, the inspector who would like nothing better than to shut them down (is there any other kind?).
The kids, for once, are not unrealistic. No teenager is going to be happy about being dragged away from civilisation and might well take his mother’s death badly and turn on his father. He should should not be so quick to dismiss his father, though, as the lesson that you only need “20 seconds of courage” is what helps him stop being a surly teen and get the girl.
A seemingly superficial film on the surface, the message is concealed and not overly preachy. The message may be a little more whimsical however, but it works in this cute take on dealing with tragedy – it takes only 20 seconds to say “why not” and be courageous (your family might even get a zoo out of it).
It might not send you running out to buy a zoo, but if you are looking for a fun, slightly predictable family film, We Bought a Zoo is a safe bet.