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We're Buying a Zoo

We're Buying a Zoo

USA 2011 - with Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Hayden Church, Patrick Fugit, Colin Ford ...

Movie info

Original title:We bought a Zoo
Genre:Comedy, Drama, Tragicomedy
Direction:Cameron Crowe
Cinema release:03.05.2012
Production country:USA 2011
Running time:Approx. 123 min.
Rated:From 0 years
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It has taken over six years for Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire) to bring a new work to theaters after his last feature Elizabethtown. But it was worth the wait. For his family film We're Buying a Zoo, based on the autobiographical book by Benjamin Mee, is feel-good cinema of a particularly enchanting kind, giving the viewer two hours of pure sunshine.

The film tells the story of journalist Benjamin (Matt Damon), who can't get over the death of his wife, as he is reminded everywhere of the love of his life. And so he decides to make a fresh start. Against the advice of his brother Duncan (Thomas Hayden Church) and despite the vehement protests of his son Dylan (Colin Ford), Benjamin buys an old country house, which includes a huge plot of land. But the estate's 70,000 square feet aren't just trees, meadows and fields. The house also includes the once-popular Rosemoor Animal Park, a now-closed zoo but still home to dozens of animals. Their survival was previously governed by the estate of the former owners. But now that the zoo has a new owner, it's up to Benjamin to make sure it can continue. The team, led by dedicated keeper Kelly Foster (Scarlett Johansson), doesn't give the inexperienced newcomer much of a chance and is already resigned to having to look for new jobs soon. But Benjamin puts all his money and willpower into making the zoo shine again and open to the public. But whether good will alone is enough for this endeavor soon seems questionable...

Naturally, Cameron Crowe has changed the story behind We're Buying a Zoo a bit to make a true cinematic tale out of the true incident. For instance, the zoo was moved from the southwest of England to the United States. In addition, the purchase of the zoo was much more complicated than depicted in the film, due to bureaucratic reasons and Mee's complete inexperience. The former columnist for THE GUARDIAN newspaper had to wait a whole two years for the purchase to be approved. Probably the most important change, however, is that it wasn't the death of Mee's wife that prompted him to buy the zoo, as she actually passed away after the family had already moved into their new residence. But even though this actually reduces the true core of the story to just the purchase of the zoo, it still has enough magic to make the cinematic realization a particularly charming piece of cinema magic.

Crowe proves to be the perfect director to make that very magic happen. In doing so, he relies on the very strengths that have made his previous films so outstanding. His script contains exactly the right mixture of drama and comedy, the musical background is perfectly tuned and the characters are drawn in an extremely endearing way. Kelly Foster's team, for instance, are a group of quirky yet somehow genuinely likeable guys you'd love to spend more time with. Even the vain and extremely fussy zoo inspector is somehow so charmingly portrayed that it's really fun to watch him judge Benjamin's existence.

This is, of course, thanks not only to Crowe's direction and script, but also to the great cast. Besides the many good actors, which also include Patrick Fugit from Crowe's masterpiece Almost Famous or the wonderful Thomas Hayden Church (Sideways), especially Matt Damon and a very charming Scarlett Johansson leave a really good impression. Damon shows a very reserved, natural side, which suits him well and also proves his acting versatility, which is often denied to him. The secret star of the film, however, is Maggie Elizabeth Jones, who takes the audience's hearts by storm as Benjamin's seven-year-old daughter Rosie and provides some of the film's most endearing moments. A real godsend for the film.

We're Buying a Zoo makes no secret of the fact that it doesn't want to be a deep drama, but a pure feel-good movie that uses simple devices (cute kids, funny animals, gorgeous scenery, likeable do-gooders) to manipulate the audience's emotions. And that's a good thing. Because Crowe doesn't distract with a cramped effort at pretension from simply providing two hours of simple, beautiful entertainment that's full of heart and just plain good fun. He's conjured up a place on screen you'd love to travel to immediately and created characters you'd love to call your friends. Yes, it's a little cheesy at times, and there's a little bit of pathos thrown in at the end. But it's done in a way that you, as a viewer, are all too happy to be lulled by. So you don't need a whole zoo, you just need to buy a movie ticket to feel really good. And therefore also applies: Absolutely worth seeing!!

An article by Frankfurt-Tipp


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Cinema trailer for the movie "We're Buying a Zoo (USA 2011)"
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