Sunday, December 25, 2011

We Bought a Zoo

Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo is by far the most egregious waste of time you can spend this holiday season, in a movie theater, that is. It’s overly long, incredibly boring, laughably acted, and just all around inexpertly staged. It’s didactic to the point of nausea; possibly suitable for grandma, but useless to most anyone who gets a basic enjoyment out of movies.

The film tells the (kind of) true story of Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) who after losing his wife to cancer, quits his job (look, a Jerry Maguire moment!), and moves his playful young daughter and rebellious teenage son away from their quaint little town to a farmhouse far out in the country. When Benjamin purchases his new home, you see, he inherits a medium-sized zoo, its animals, its few employees, and so on.

Benjamin thinks the idea of buying a zoo sounds like a fresh start, so he spends his life savings getting the zoo ready for its seasonal grand opening. This includes countless, endless, laborious, painstakingly long scenes of Benjamin and Co. getting into Capra-esque hiccups, such as letting hundreds of snakes out of their box, talking a lion (or was it a tiger?... hell if I care to remember) off of a rock, arguing with teenage angst, dodging flirts from the head zoo worker, and, worst among them, trying to get the zoo approved and licensed by a cartoon caricature of a “villain” (played with shameful indifference by John Michael Higgins, an often humorous character actor).

Look, the holidays are all about coming together and, if not only for a moment, forgetting the baggage and past regrets and simply enjoying time with your family. I get that. And, as mentioned, if you’re looking for a cinematic outing that the whole family can partake in, then I’m sure We Bought a Zoo will do just fine. But seriously, what the hell kind of recommendation is that? If I were a major film critic, my quote for submission to be tagged on this film’s movie poster may be something like: “The Least Offensive Film of the Holiday Season!”

In short, We Bought a Zoo’s heart is in the right place, but so was the heart of Crowe’s last film, the equally disastrous Elizabethtown.

I saw We Bought a Zoo when it screened for one night, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The sold out theater was packed with families eager to enjoy a film together; basically, the film’s target audience. So when the scene in which Damon engages in an extended argument with his onscreen son occured, it doesn’t speak very favorably of the film to note that the majority of those in attendance were laughing audibly. What was happening on screen was not meant to be funny, but god was it ever. D


  1. Studios should really give more credit to film bloggers! Sometimes they influence and decide which movies people see! Thanks for making me NOT waste 10 pounds on this one! I'd rather spend it on Shame or The Artist!

  2. @Aziza Amen, sister! I cannot fully articulate how much better spent your money would be on Shame or The Artist. Or anything else.

  3. So is this film worse than Elizabethtown? I don't think I can handle another Elizabethtown. That was excruciatingly awful.

  4. @Andy Buckle oh I know you did. And god bless you for it.

  5. Haha. Your response made me laugh. We don't have Shame or The Artist or Tinker Tailor out yet. Looking at the Boxing Day lineup it's the best family flick after Tintin. That's what I'm basing my enthusiasm on. For some reason it hit a spot with me. Unexpected, but pleasantly surprising. It's far from a good film, but I love cinema so much, I find exhilaration in strange places - and find them lacking in more obvious ones - *War Horse*

  6. @Andy Buckle Hey man, fair enough. You dig what you dig, who I am to argue that? But I suspect all the reasons you liked it were all the reasons I hated it.

  7. hehe! I thought this might be good but you have me backing off now... Thanks!

  8. Youre an idiot.... We Bought a Zoo was a great movie....

  9. After two boring, bad films do you have any expectations that Cameron Crowe can make Aloha be better than Elizabethtown?
    After a good director with a great body of work makes two or three bad films in a row do you think that he can return with a great film?

    1. To answer the second question first: yes, I do think a comeback is always possible. But, unfortunately, the Aloha trailer did nothing for me. Crowe's films are all fluff now. To me, anyway. Such a shame. Jerry Maguire is one of my favorite romance films ever. And Say Anything is absolutely perfect. Vanilla Sky, Almost Famous... where's the guy who made THOSE movies?