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

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - E Guide Movies - LEIGH PAATSCH

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.

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