We Bought a Zoo (2011)

(On Cable TV, April 2017) on the one hand, I’m not a big fan of obviously manipulative feel-good movies. On the other hand, I won’t deny that I like feeling good and can be lenient toward films that aim to make viewers happy. So it is that with We Bought a Zoo, we have the story of a widower purchasing a zoo, caring for animals and reconciling with his kids and getting over the tragic death of his wife. That’s it. Nothing else. Fortunately, that’s more than enough. Once you throw in the zoo animals, the decent performances by Matt Damon and Scarlett Johannsen, as well as the assorted cast of characters, the film becomes more than bearable enough. A heavier, older, quieter Damon makes for a solid protagonist, but a good part of the film’s charm goes to the underdog nature of a man picking up zoo-keeping from scratch. Speaking to animals is part of the challenge, but speaking to other people is just as important. Despite the blatant melodrama of writer/director Cameron Crowe’s script (the leitmotif “20 seconds of insane courage” aren’t even mentioned until the third act.), We Bought a Zoo is not a bad movie. Sometimes, we can accept manipulation if the end result is to our liking.

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