Another film on my agenda for this week’s slate was the seemingly-quirky We Bought a Zoo. This movie, starring a somewhat plain Matt Damon wasn’t exactly at the top of my list of films to see. The previews really didn’t resonate with me and it all just seemed like light family fare aimed primarily at getting sighs from the younger members of the family. I mean, we’ve not only never seen Damon look this vanilla but the same is true for Scarlett Johansson and that’s not easy to do. It made me seriously wonder what the casting agents were thinking. Action movie at zoo? That would make more sense.
What I experienced instead was a wonderful film that’s cute, touching, memorable and enjoyable by virtually every possible moviegoer It also sports a really solid soundtrack that set the atmosphere perfectly for virtually every scene.
There are moments where the film falls down a bit. The zoo inspector (played by venerable character actor John Michael Higgins) is very cartoon-like which is another way to say his character is a bit overdone and the same is nearly true for his arch-enemy, the zoo carpenter, played solidly by Angus MacFadyen (Robert the Bruce from Braveheart). It’s also totally predictable and very much feels like a stereotypical Hollywood affair. In the end its biggest failing is that it’s just too bland.
We know there has to be a deeper story here but the film seems too unsure of itself to go there instead opting for the safety of simplicity. I found myself wanting to still see a more adult-specific version of the film replete with all the stresses and realities that surely must have gone with the territory. I suspect the producers just flat-out couldn’t come to grips with exactly what this film is. It sticks a toe in each area but then pulls it back as soon as it gets at all warm.
However, even those issues aren’t enough to ruin the fun. Thomas Hayden Church as the brother once again provides a character that nearly steals the show. The ending sequences were also so powerful and well done that those alone are worth the effort (I’ll never look at a red kite the same again). I doubt there was a dry eye in the house. I’m glad I saw it and would recommend it to most anyone other than those who must have a myriad of explosions to make a film worthwhile.