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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

When a film banks on effective story telling -- WE BOUGHT A ZOO Movie Review


At a time where jazzed up editing and spectacular special visual effects are the most recognizable selling points of a movie, here comes a simple yet powerful film which banked on the basic story telling (which should be each film's first and basic foundation) and nailed it right.  

From the director of Jerry Maguire, Cameron Crowe, comes a highly entertaining, heartwarming adventure and family movie called WE BOUGHT A ZOO.  Inspired by the true story about a single dad who dreams up the coolest, most unusual gift a parent could ever give his family: a zoo.  The family travels from the city to their new home in the wilds of upstate New York, where their ramshackle zoo is waiting to be restored to its former glory.

As mentioned earlier, WE BOUGHT A ZOO banked on the greatness of its simple story.  It's unusually longer than a regular film but not a single moment that I got bored.  I was even surprised that I felt that way.

The story is simple yet compelling, about a widower together with his problem son and very young daughter trying to recover and move on from the death of his wife and how owning and managing a zoo got entangled in the situation.  It may sound common but the way the story is developed, the way each situation is played up and written, and the way how the leads in the movie were characterized and portrayed made it really extraordinary.  Script is well crafted, dialogues are so realistic, entertaining and funny scenes are tastefully done, and dramatic highlights are so moving. 

Aside from the story and screenplay, another commendable factor about the movie is not just the powerhouse cast, but the strong acting ensemble.  Matt Damon excellently portrayed his role!  If he won't get an award from this, I think he should at least be nominated!  He has mastered his craft and I think this is one of his best performances.  Whether there's a dialogue or there's none, whether it's a light funny moment or an emotionally charged scene, whether he's trying to look cool or trying to get boringly serious, Matt Damon just delivered a brilliant work!  My most favorite scene is the part where he's looking at the pictures of his wife and painfully trying to let go of the past.  This one is just so moving, it's so powerful, Matt Damon was at his best!

Maggie Elizabeth Jones (Rosie, 7 year old daughter of Benjamin Mee) is the movie's scene stealer!  She definitely captured the audience's attention and her charm and no nonsense delivery of dialogue and facial expression made her an instant favorite of the movie goers.  She has so many acting highlights and she's so adorable in each of it.  I guess the most memorable is the part when she told her dad that her brother loves him.  It's just fascinating how a young kid can actually be surprisingly "matured" in thinking but still convincing.  She is destined to be the next Dakota Funning of this generation!  Mark my word folks!  :)

Colin Ford as Bejamin's rebellious son Dylan also did well in his role.  At first, I got irritated with his character (I guess that the film's intention) but I slowly understood and loved him.  His true-to-the-character acting effectively conveyed the complications of their family situation and his relationship his father.  His confrontation scene (issue on shaving) with Benjamin was classic!  Everyone was moved -- in rage, in sympathy and in hug laughter!

Thomas Haden Church as Benjamin's brother is not your usual supporting actor.  He may look sarcastic and funny in the movie but his character has a lot of sense.  And Thomas did the role right.

Elle Fanning as the naive farm girl Lily also provided a commendable performance.  Lily was reserved but audience can easily feel the emotion she's trying to convey.  Everyone felt for her and that's hats off to Elle!

Scarlett Johansson is not her usual sexy character but nevertheless, she's still so lovable in this film.  Scarlett intelligently played the role of Kelly, the zoo keeper.  Whether it's about the animals or relationships, Scarlett showed the audience she can do the job well. 

The rest of actors who played the staff of the Zoo were also remarkable in their respective roles.  The characterizations may be distinct from each other but what transpired is their love for the animals and commitment to take care of the zoo. 

Production Design is prolific especially at the part where the family moved to the zoo.  I don't know if I am just an animal lover by nature but the fantastic shots with the animals, the zoo and the house gave me so much delight.  Music and sound blended well in the movie.  Editing is straight forward but the part where Matt Damon is remembering his wife was crafted so well.  I even think that it's the best part of the movie.

One thing I did not like though is how the zoo inspector was characterized.  He's just too animated.  I think there's a way how to make him real yet entertaining.  Although I liked it, I guess two love stories may be too overwhelming for the movie.  Perhaps the younger pair could have just been close friends and it could just be an open ended thing on how their relationship will evolve.  Two for me is just too cheesy.  :)

In summary,  WE BOUGHT  A ZOO is about a movie where humans and animals saving each other's lives.  Benjamin tried to save the zoo animals but unexpectedly, he and his relationship with his family were saved by these creatures as well.  Lastly, I consider WE BOUGHT A ZOO a well made quality movie of 2011. The movie, and the actors, deserves a recognition, and of course our patronage.  :)  From a scale of 1 to 10 claps, I'm giving We Bought A Zoo, a powerful 9.

From 20th Century Fox and distributed by Warner Bros., WE BOUGHT A ZOO opens in theaters on Jan. 18.  Tatak Digitista's Potato On The Go highly recommends this movie.  Go watch it with your family and friends and be moved.  :)

Note:  The zoo in the movie, called Rosemoor Wildlife Park, is based on the real zoo in England named Dartmoor Zoological Park. 

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