I have an unapologetic love for Cameron Crowe’s body of work. With that in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that my review for ‘We Bought a Zoo’ is going to be positive. However, before you jump to conclusions like, “If Luke loves ‘Vanilla Sky’, of course he’s going to love this one,” you should know that I dragged seven friends of mine to the Nov. 26th sneak preview just to get the non-movie-buff reaction, and all seven of them loved it just as much as I did.
The Hollywood Reporter published a fantastic piece a few weeks back which revealed that ‘We Bought a Zoo’ is a movie that Cameron Crowe didn’t write, but revised. Although the story seems like one that he might have created on his own, it’s actually based on an autobiographical book by Benjamin Mee. After the untimely passing of his wife, Mee dropped everything and moved his family to a dream house located in a zoo. The book was initially adapted into a screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna (‘The Devil Wears Prada‘). Crowe only agreed to make the picture on the condition that he’d be allowed to do a rewrite, adding in some classic Crowe-isms.
It took a lot of convincing (which you can also read about in the THR piece), but Crowe managed to coax Matt Damon into playing the lead. Just as the director felt about the screenplay that was handed to him, Damon didn’t want to do the movie because it felt too much like a generic feel-good flick. Eventually, the rewrite combined with Crowe’s deeply intimate take on the story won the actor over.
As a moviegoer watching the trailer for ‘We Bought a Zoo’, you might assume that it’s just another PG family film hitting theaters for the holidays. Trust me and seven friends, it’s a lot more than that.
Whenever Crowe directs a movie, he plays music on set to convey the vibe, tone, mood and emotion of each scene. Because of that, all the actors in ‘We Bought a Zoo’ deliver honest and genuine performances. While the film might be as predictable as you expect, the emotion-filled road it travels down is so pure in its intent that you’ll make a connection with it anyway. Where it fails into cliché, it succeeds with honesty.
I’m not saying that ‘We Bought a Zoo’ is my favorite film of the year. I’m not even saying that it’s my favorite Cameron Crowe film. But it’s a damn fine movie that deserves to be seen. It’s one of those rare feel-good films that the critics seem to appreciate just as much as general audiences. If you lost faith in Crowe after ‘Vanilla Sky’ or ‘Elizabethtown’, check out ‘We Bought a Zoo’. I guarantee that it will restore your faith in his ability to make quality feature films. Another bonus is that it’s not only a fantastic movie for adults, but you can bring your kids along too.