We Bought a Zoo
Cameron Crowe’s soft spot is also his weakest spot. Think of the more soppy moments in Jerry Maguire or even Almost Famous. We Bought a Zoo is full of soft spots. In fact, it’s one big soft spot.
Matt Damon plays Benjamin Mee, a big-city writer and recent widower with two kids and a huge hole in his life. To get his life back on track, he packs up the family, moves to the middle of nowhere, and – wait for it – buys a broken-down zoo. In addition to the menagerie of lions, zebras, and monkeys roaming the grounds, Benjamin acquires a kinda-girlfriend in Scarlett Johansson as Kelly Foster, the comely but too-busy-for-a-social-life zookeeper in charge of the ragtag but devoted staff.
Too cute and swinging way too hard for family audiences, We Bought a Zoo is Crowe’s most sentimental and conventional movie. (It’s partially based on a true story.) At least Jerry Maguire had some bite. Benjamin’s zoo adventure is all about reconnecting with his children and finally finding closure on his wife’s death. The cast is game, especially Damon, who gives heft to what is essentially a slumming role. But the sweetness of it all will smother you.