We Bought a Zoo
For unabashed fans of Cameron Crowe (us included), the past decade has been a tricky time. For whatever reasons (and we’re not getting into the documentaries, which should be considered on their own merits, and not lumped in with his films), neither Vanilla Sky nor Elizabethtown managed to reach the heights of such delights as Jerry Maguire or Almost Famous. It’s almost as if the man who makes the kind of movies that hug the audience was in need of an embrace himself. Will he be back on track with We Bought a Zoo?
Interestingly, it marks the first time that he’s sharing the screenplay duties (with the hotshot Aline Brosh McKenna, who did so much for The Devil Wears Prada, I Don’t Know How She Does It and Morning Glory, among others) so will many hands make light work? Adapted from Benjamin Mee’s memoir — with the action moved from Britain to America — We Bought a Zoo is the tale of a widower (Matt Damon) moving his young family to the countryside to renovate and re-open a struggling zoo. And Benjamin doesn’t just need to learn to interact with the animals but the humans, such as zookeeper Kelly (Scarlett Johansson).
Ironically, there seems to have been some cynicism surrounding a project Crowe told the Washington Post was “a little bit about hope and a lack of cynicism.” This was in response to the unfortunately aired email spat between Dragon Tattoo producer Scott Rudin and the New Yorker‘s David Denby, who broke that movie’s review embargo because, “We had a dilemma: What to put in the magazine on December 5? Certainly not We Bought the Zoo, or whatever it’s called.”
And there are negative appraisals from those who have actually seen it. “Clichés and contrivances and corniness, oh my! With We Bought a Zoo, writer-director Cameron Crowe dives headfirst into the schmaltzy slop barrel,” wrote Slant. But this being the season of goodwill and all, EW was prepared to give into its charms, stating that “it’s basically a Tim Allen movie, only made with taste and feeling.” No matter what you make of the movie, you can’t deny that cinema is a better, brighter place with Crowe involved. Welcome back, sir.