Eye of the tiger
REVIEW WE BOUGHT A ZOO ( PG) ★★★ ■ Director: Cameron Crowe ( Vanilla Sky) Stars: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Colin Ford, Maggie Elizabeth Jones, John Michael Higgins A pure animal attraction
WHAT you see in the title is all you will get from this soft- hearted yet level- headed family movie. And that’s exactly all the target audience needs from such middleof- the- road fare.
If you and the kids loved making puppy eyes at Marley & Me, the creaturely comforts of We Bought a Zoo will definitely deliver.
So just who has made the majorly life- changing purchase? That would be ex- thrillseeker journalist Benjamin Mee ( Matt Damon) and his two children Dylan ( Colin Ford, the obligatory surly, selfcentred teen of the tale) and Rosie ( Maggie Elizabeth Jones, a seven- yearold adorable- reaction- shot machine).
After the recent passing of the lovely Mrs Mee ( played in a rolling set of you-can- cry- now flashbacks by Stephanie Szostak), the trio needed to leave their big- city home because of all the painful memories.
This explains Benjamin’s impulsive acquisition of a ‘‘ renovator’s dream’’- cum rural zoo.
More a farm than a traditional animal reserve, the property needs a lot of work if it is to be re- opened to the public.
In spite of any experience with the care of a pet – let alone a collection of about 200 critters – the Mees gingerly take up the challenge to revive their zapped- out zoo.
Assisting in the menagerie’s makeover are the incumbent lowly- paid staff, led by all- round handywoman ( and kind- of love interest) Kelly ( a yappier- than- usual Scarlett Johansson), a dude with a monkey always on his shoulder ( Patrick Fugit), and a Captain Haddock- ish groundsman ( Angus Macfadyen).
Cynical, you’re- all- out- of- your- mind asides are supplied by a snarky council inspector ( John Michael Higgins) and Benjamin’s flaky bro ( Thomas Haden Church). Predictable? You bet. Dull? Not at all. This is where the knowingly appealing skills of director and co- writer Cameron Crowe kick in.
The guy keeps everything ticking along to a breezy beat, thanks in no small part to clever soundtrack choices ( Echo & the Bunnymen, Tom Petty, Cat Stevens) and an unobtrusive music score from Sigur Ros mainman Jonsi.
FEEL- GOOD: Scarlett Johansson with Matt Damon do the rounds of the zoo.
CLOSE ENOUGH: Matt Damon comes face to face with a tiger.