This Holiday Season be on the lookout for a NEW emotionally riveting movie to be in theaters. We Bought a Zoo, with it’s amazing ensemble of cast members, sent my heart on a roller coaster of ups and downs as I watched a story about the human spirit and it’s ability to build itself back up in the midst of a tragedy.
No. This is not a children’s film, although I thought it would be. Was it the movie poster that made me think that? Was it the trailer? Either way, I walked out of the theaters in Los Angeles with a sense of hope in this thing we like to call PARENTING. It gave me the strength to simply believe in myself as a Mother. Sometimes I get it wrong. Sometimes I make mistakes. Sometimes I have no early idea what to say to my child, but all I need is 20 seconds of insane courage to build myself back up. We Bought a Zoo… what else does it entail?
WE BOUGHT A ZOO is a funny, inspiring and true story about the magical power of family to persevere in the face of extraordinary challenges. This is acclaimed filmmaker Cameron Crowe’s (Jerry Maguire) first motion picture for all audiences, and stars Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson and Thomas Haden Church. Damon portrays a single dad who, looking to give his family a much-needed fresh start, moves to a home situated in the middle of a zoo, which he and his two children will attempt to bring back to its once glorious state. The film weaves together warmth, laughter and a spirit of optimism that is perfect for the holiday season.
A few weeks ago, I found myself on a flight to Los Angeles. We were off to the press junket of the NEW Alvin and the Chipmunks Movie, but we’d also be screening We Bought a Zoo. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I mentioned above. I, seriously, thought this was a kiddy movie. I think the movie poster, with it’s inviting zebra, made me think that. I’m under the assumption that other parents will feel the same way. So, here’s my take. Here’s my review. Here’s me telling you….. it’s not a kid movie. I won’t be taking my two youngest to see it, but I WILL be taking my 9-yr-old son.
Well, first off We Bought a Zoo is based on a true story. Yes. There really IS a Benjamin Mee, who bought a zoo, who lost the love of his life, and continued on with an amazing feat of hope from the zoo animals around him. Tell me that isn’t inspiring?
The movie starts off after the tragedy of Ben losing his wife and being left with his two children. One of his children is a sweet innocent little girl, who is easy to love. The other is a teenager who feels lost and hurt and is doing everything he can NOT to care about the life around him. He’s troubled and Ben is at a complete loss on how to fix it. He knows there needs to be a change… a big change.
So, he plucks his kids from the life they knew and moves them to the countryside, into a new home, which just so happens to be a struggling zoo. The animals and workers there are in danger of being gone, but Ben senses an opportunity for his family’s hearts to heal.
Here is a single Dad who’s scared, who’s confused, who is left with the sweet memories of his wife and his pushy brother (played by Thomas Haden Church – who is PERFECT for the role in my opinion), who tells him he needs to move on. He needs human interaction. Little did he know that animal interaction would be the factor that would help Ben heal, build his family back up, and take on a new life.
Okay. I’ve heard mixed reviews on this movie, but I’m going on MY take, MY review. Would that be alright?
Although, I absolutely LOVE the movie, I was troubled that the marketing of it seemed to be geared towards kids. Other families I know mentioned they were going to take their young children thinking it was a sweet movie about animals.
There are a few parts in the movie that I feel can be really intense.
1. The relationship between Ben and his son Dylan is emotional and raw and, as a parent, it hits close to home as we dive into the pre-teen years with my son. There is a hurt that the viewer can sense just by watching them interact.
2. Also, there are lots of zoo animals in danger of losing their home and their lives. If your child has a sensitivity to animals dying? Well, this might be an issue.
3. Then there’s the ONE part that made think C’mon. That could have been left out. The sweet little girl, Ben’s 7-yr-old daughter, does say a “choice” word that I wouldn’t allow my children to say.
In the end, after all the factors, We Bought a Zoo is a movie that engulfs the human spirit, weaving together warmth, laughter, heart, and spirit. While, it’s not a “kid movie” by any stretch of the imagination, it is one I’d recommend to parents for the Holiday Season and even teenagers (possibly age 12 and up). I’m taking my 9-yr-old son because I think he’s mature enough and can relate to Dylan in a LOT of ways.
In the coming days, look for my interview with Aline Brosh McKenna, who wrote the screenplay, and my take on the young love featured in the movie with Dylan and Lily.
Look for We Bought a Zoo to be in theaters December 23rd.
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