Directed by Cameron Crowe; starring Matt Damon (Benjamin Mee), Scarlet Johansson (Kelly Foster - the head zoo keeper), Thomas Church (Benjamin's brother), Colin Ford (Dylan), and Maggie Elizabeth Jones (Rosie).
We Bought A Zoo, which premiered in theatres December 2011, is based on the book of the same title written by Benjamin Mee. We Bought a Zoo is based on the real life story of the Mees who, in the movie, desperately needed a change after Benjamin's wife Katherine, died of cancer, leaving him with a son and daughter to care for. In the movie, son Dylan is 14 and the daughter, Rosie is 7. Each is coping in a different manner, but it is Dylan's frequent school suspensions and his disturbing art work that convinces father, Benjamin, to seek another place to give everyone a fresh start. Thus, when real estate hunting, the home they find and Benjamin falls in love with is actually on zoo property.
Different obstacles become apparent, both human and animal, but Benjamin is not a quitter and we, the viewer, admire his tenacity. His family needs this dream and he is determined to see it to fruition. The funny thing is, as life goes, those things that seem like obstacles, often are the very things that help us heal.
There is a lovely scene that is so endearing, the scene of Rosie all tucked in bed, literally buried beneath all her stuffed toys and the father/daughter talk that follows about capturing Mommy's spirit and keeping her in your heart, all of which Dylan hears while standing outside the door, tears running down his cheeks, to match my own. Yes, this is a bit of a tear jerker for the sentimental of heart. You just have to love this little girl who, with her sweet innocent childlike affectation, announces at the hardware store, "We bought a zoo!" Her enthusiasm is contagious!
The entire film is a scenic treat, complete with rolling hills, a grizzly, tigers and wildlife in abundance. Though the original story is in England, the movie version is in Southern California, United States, which I thought at first would be a deterrence for me, but the setting is perfectly chosen and conducive to Rosemoor Wildlife Park (Dartmoor Zoological Park) Quoted from the Dartmoor Zoological Park site: "Set in 33 acres of beautiful woodland with stunning views of the surrounding countryside, Dartmoor Zoo is a unique, family owned zoo with a fantastic collection of animals including the widest variety of big cats in the south west of England.
Formerly known as Dartmoor Wildlife Park, the zoo was purchased by the Mee family and following major refurbishment work, reopened in July 2007 as Dartmoor Zoological Park. The story of those early days can be found here. It was also captured in the BBC documentary, Ben's Zoo and in Benjamin Mee's book, We Bought a Zoo which has been published in over 20 countries. In the Hollywood adaptation of We Bought A Zoo, Dartmoor Zoological Park becomes, "Rosemoor Wildlife Park" set in California."
Great quote from the movie:
Benjamin Mee: "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."
Screen Rant reviewed this movie and included a viewer poll that of 735 voters, 53% gave it a five star review, 33% a four-star rating! I concur! We Bought a Zoo is a buyer for your DVD/blu-ray collection. (Releases April 3, 2012 in the USA)
*note: In the memoir, Katherine dies a few months before the zoo opening, after her brain cancer returns. By this time, the family have already been making strides to reopen the wildlife sanctuary in the English countryside.
The memoir, We Bought a Zoo, was published by Doubleday Canada (trade paperback ISBN 978-0385666213). We Bought a Zoo is available in bookstores near you, at Amazon.ca, Barnes & Noble, Indigo.ca (in both trade paperback and hardcover ISBN 978-0385666213). Also available as an audio book and an ebook.