Saturday, 17 March 2012

We Bought a Zoo, dir. Cameron Crowe, scr. Aline Brosh McKenna, Cameron Crowe based on We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee, st. Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Patrick Fugit, Colin Ford, Elle Fanning, Angus Macfadyen

We Bought A Zoo oscillates wildly between moments of profound sentimentality and Santander Ad tweeness - complete with Sigur Rós underscoring. It also never knows quite what it wants to be. There's the familiar trope of a single parent coping to raise, provide and bond with his children upon the death of a spouse to provide the main dramatic thrust of the film, and then there's the comedic fish-out-of-water City Slicker meets The Sticks theme. Upon the passing of the aforementioned wife and mother Katherine, Benjamin Mee (Damon), sullen teen son Dylan (Ford) and button-cute daughter Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) literally buy a zoo as it contains their dream start-over house. Sporadically nestling amongst the clichéd lines and rent-a-scene dramatic twists and turns are some genuinely smart and moving moments - a scene in which Ben and his son's grief erupt in a vicious war of words injects a punchy and much needed vitality to the soggy story - but these are sadly too few and too far between. There's a clunky romance crowbarred in between lead zookeeper Johansson and Damon that's sphincter-clenchingly contrived and the film lays on The Redemptive Power of Golden Sunlight-shot a bit thick, but there's a closing scene that's surprisingly honest and affecting which left me only wishing that the rest of the movie had legitimately earned it.