Benjamin Mee’s son, Dylan Mee (Collin Ford), is acting out his pain by acting up in school and getting expelled for stealing. If that weren’t enough, he is drawing horrifically violent, macabre drawings.
Benjamin’s daughter, Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones), however, is showing a lot of spunk and ego-strength, and is a darling to watch. Benjamin creates a tender moment when he asks Rosie, “What can you do if you are losing the memory of Mom?” “Catch her spirit,” Rosie answers.
But 13-year-old Dylan is having a hard time after his friends fail to come visit him in the country. His fascination with violent images does not make sense if he’s been double loved all his life. Although there is nothing tougher on a kid than losing a parent, his “pre-psychopath” drawings just don’t add up. We get a glimpse of what is lacking when Dylan accidentally lets the snakes out of the box. Benjamin Mee is not the most forgiving father, nor has he been the best communicator through the years so, evidently, the loss of his loving mother is felt so much more deeply by Dylan.
As Benjamin decides to buy the zoo, his older brother, Duncan (Thomas Haden Church), gives Benjamin some sage advice and plenty of warnings. Duncan’s odd personality adds some fun and quirky humor to the movie.
Scarlett Johansson, the brash Kelly Foster, pulls off quite a coup in the movie. She is a no-nonsense, get-her-done zookeeper and a tender-hearted confidant of the worried and heart-broken Benjamin, all at the same time. Kelly slowly begins to be attracted to Benjamin as she sees he has the best of intentions, even though they are naïve.
But Benjamin is struggling as he grieves for his lost wife. “We Bought a Zoo” shows how difficult the grieving process is. Therapists, take note: it’s a good movie to prescribe for your clients who are grieving.
John Michael Higgins brings his inimitable personality to the role of the irascible zoo inspector, Walter Ferris. You remember him as the therapist on “Ally McBeal.” He plays the heavy, as the crew attempts to refurbish the zoo in time for its July 7 opening.
Kudos must be given to the music director, Jon Thor Birgisson (as Jónsi), not just for the score, but for the individual song selections that play as transition devices and background color. They add nicely to the depth of the picture.
If you are not a Matt Damon fan, fear not—he fades into the character very well with fine acting. But the director, Cameron Crowe, who gave us “Jerry McGuire,” must receive most of the credit. This material could have ended up being sappy and saccharine, but it didn’t. If you don’t love wild animals, don’t worry; they are upstaged by the human acting and the astute production.
“We Bought a Zoo” hits the perfect note for both adults and kids alike.
Rated PG for language
Cedric Wood, Ph.D., L.P.C.
Counselor for individuals, couples, and entire families or any part thereof.
Specializing in adult children and their parents.
7424 Greenville Ave.
behind Jason’s Deli
Dallas, TX 75231
214 394 4040.