¨You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.¨
2011 brought us some surprisingly great family films such as The Muppets and Dolphin Tale, but I think Cameron Crowe just won me over for the best one of the year with We Bought a Zoo. I`m a huge Crowe fan and have loved most of his films (I even loved Elizabethtown and am not ashamed of admitting it despite being hated by nearly every critic), especially Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire. I think this film is up to par with his best work despite being over sentimental at times. I think that what I like best about Crowe`s films are his dialogues. I think he`s a good writer and he creates some interesting characters. He usually writes his own stories for his films, although this time he based it on a true story and adapted the screenplay from Benjamin Mee`s biography, but he still should receive credit for his adaptation. The story isn`t the only thing that works, a lot of credit has to be given to Matt Damon for his performance in the lead role and to the rest of the supporting cast. Scarlett Johansson had strong chemistry with Damon and her performance felt believable, Maggie Elizabeth Jones was cuter than any other character on screen this year, Elle Fanning is almost as amazing as she was in Super 8 (she`s turning into my favorite young actress along with Chloe Grace Moretz), while Thomas Haden Church, John Higgins, and Angus Macfadyen provided most of the laughs in the movie. Colin Ford had to play kind of the rebellious teen son and he did a decent job although he perhaps had the least interesting character. The animals also play a huge part in the overall effectiveness of the film.
The film is based on a true story about a father named Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) who after losing his wife has to raise his two children on his own in Southern California. His fourteen year old son, Dylan (Colin Ford, a young Bon Jovi lookalike) is going through a very dark time and is having trouble at school. He ends up being expelled for stealing some money and for painting a very dark mural. His seven year old daughter, Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) is a lot closer to her father and is cuter than any other girl her age. She is sweet and always smiling, a complete contrast to Dylan. Benjamin becomes tired of the city life and quits his job as a journalist and decides to buy a new home in the countryside. This new home is big, has lots of space, but it comes with one special responsibility: it is a zoo. Benjamin decides it`s time to begin a new adventure and decides to repair the zoo in time to open it for the public in the summer. The zoo is pretty much abandoned, but with the help of a few workers left Benjamin begins putting his life savings into it in order to restore it in time before the next inspection. Kelly Foster (Scarlett Johansson) has worked at the zoo for several years and becomes his right hand helper, along with Peter (Angus Macfadyen), Robin (Patrick Fugit), and her thirteen year old niece Lily (Elle Fanning). Benjamin`s accountant brother Duncan (Thomas Haden Church) warns him about the financial risks involved, but he decides to go with his heart and live a new adventure.
If you`ve seen a Cameron Crowe film before then you know this won`t just be a family film. Crowe loves music and he always includes some really great soundtracks in his stories. He also manages to include one or two dialogues based on music. He makes a reference to Dylan being named after the great Bob Dylan, but later we realize he was really named Dylan for his dog. Just like the Crowe humor isn`t missing here, the romantic stories aren`t left out either. Crowe is a romantic at heart. We`ve seen some of the most famous romantic lines in movies like Jerry Maguire, such as ¨you had me at hello,¨ but here he also includes a few lines that will be memorable like the ¨twenty seconds of insane courage¨ one. The film is really worth a watch, it is for everyone, it has a love story, several funny scenes, an inspiring story, and several cute animals. Adults and children will enjoy this film alike. I was surprised to hear the characters in which this film was based actually had a cameo near the end of the movie. The real Benjamin and his two children were the first in line to climb the fallen tree in order to reach the zoo. Matt Damon is such a reliable actor; he has had a great year, but the true heart of the film here relies on the cuteness of Elle Fanning, Maggie Elizabeth Jones, and the animals. Yes this film might be over sentimental and cheesy at times, but it`s so cute that it`s hard to resist.