We Bought a Zoo

Director Cameron Crowe ("Say Anything"- my favorite!) is back. After (in my opinion) a couple of misfires, "Elizabethtown" and "Vanilla Sky," he seems to be hitting his stride again.

This two-hour (123 minutes) PG dramedy is based on a true story which, according to information provided before the closing credits, continues even today. A grieving widower quits his San Diego-based job, packs up his two children and moves them to a privately owned wild animal park in Southern California. He risks his retirement funds and all of his savings in the hopes that a complete change of scene will help him rebuild his life and the lives of his children.

Lucky for our city guy, this animal preserve already has a small but efficient staff, so he isn't completely at sea, but pretty close! His main challenge is his disaffected son, who was expelled from his last school for his art work (wait until you see it!). One of the best scenes is the fight between father and son; they each give as good as they get and I'm reminded again what a fine actor Damon is.

This pleasant outing boasts a terrific cast:
  • Matt Damon ("True Grit" - he was the stalwart Ranger) is our hero, embarking on a new adventure.
  • Scarlett Johansson ("The Other Boleyn Girl" - she was Anne Boleyn's sister) is the experienced zoologist.
  • Thomas Haden Church ("Sideways" - he was the wayward bridegroom) is our hero's brother, who has launched a few (mis)adventures of his own.
  • Patrick Fugit ("Almost Famous" - he was the writer for Rolling Stone) is the worker with the (capuchin) monkey on his back.
  • John Michael Higgins ("Bad Teacher" - he was the flummoxed principal) is the villain, a government inspector determined to find enough flaws that the park can't open.
  • Elle Fanning ("Super 8" - she was the girl old enough to drive) quickly gets a crush on the teenage son.
  • Colin Ford (lots of TV) is that teenager, angry, suspicious and eager to move back into the city.
Johansson makes a credible zoologist and the first big fight they have is over her determination to put down a sick animal while he, not realizing he is subconsciously substituting the sick tiger for his sick wife, keeps pleading for her to allow it to stay alive just a little longer.

Love the gal at Home Depot. I very much appreciated that these were NOT animatronic animals! Sweet ending, too.
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Here is a link to a preview:
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