Benajmin Mee is an adrenaline seeking journalist, a man satisfied only with heart pumping blood racing adventure. That is until his wife passes away , an event which occurs just before the start of the film and one which resonates throughout. We Bought a Zoo charts his rediscovery of his kids, the strengthening and stretching of their relationships and of course the rejuvenation of a down and out zoo.
There are many faults you could find in this two hour drama, but for each there is a redeeming quality which eclipses. Many of the side characters are ill judged caricatures that belong in Monty Python sketches rather than a film dealing with the complexities of grief – however, Matt Damon carries the film with an effortless charm and an infinitely watchable vulnerability over shadowing the other acting faults. There is a particularly disappointing turn as the teenage love interest from Elle Fanning who was so brilliant in Super 8 but Colin Ford manages the brooding teenage problem child with great maturity and Maggie Elizabeth Jones is phenomenally cute as Damon’s wide eyed daughter.
The idea of a city family purchasing a zoo, and having to deal with the challenges and tribulations that presents is a charming one and though the story never sways from the predictable there is a real joy in watching the family bonds strengthen and the zoo develop from a dream into a reality. The film often straddles the line between poignant tear jerker and complete farce not always with great skill but somehow to great effect. This is an uplifting story of tigers, family life and moving on. Not always perfect but a great night at the cinema nevertheless.