As a reporter Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon - The Adjustment Bureau) had travelled the globe covering all sorts of stories but nothing could prepare him for when his wife died leaving him to cope with their young daughter Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones - Away and Back) and teen son Dylan (Colin Ford - Jack and the Beanstalk). With the memories of her where they lived, Dylan getting expelled from school as he struggles and no longer being able to do the job he loved, Benjamin decides the family need a new place to call home. And that new turns out to be something old when he decides to buy an old zoo in need of plenty of work and plenty of money, despite knowing nothing about the zoo business.
Anyone who frequents The Movie Scene often will know that I am a sucker for feel good and heart-warming, which may explain why I enjoy TV movies so much. But once in a while a movie made for the big screen comes along and manages to deliver that heart-warming tale which leaves you feeling like you want to watch it again even though you know it is not the greatest movie in the world. That is how I feel about "We Bought a Zoo", a movie which isn't great cinema and doesn't have fancy special effects but it has heart and soul and it is that heart and soul which makes it an entertaining movie.
So what gives "We Bought a Zoo" heart and soul? Well in truth it is the nature of the story as here we have a man whose life has been turned upside down by the loss of his wife and in coping he has focused on his youngest daughter, in doing so having left his teen son to cope and who clearly isn't. And what we watch is how by stepping outside of the box and dealing with issues which come their way eventually personal issues are confronted and dealt with; people get to move on, to understand each other and much more. In a way what we get in "We Bought a Zoo" isn't anything special even though it is an Americanized version of a true story but it delivers the feeling which not many movies achieve.
It also delivers entertaining characters, many which are over the top but all appealing. So Matt Damon as Benjamin has that likeability of a single father trying to do right but in a movie cliche way not getting much right but with Damon's appeal it works. That appeal extends to Scarlett Johansson as the straight talking animal expert Kelly Foster as whilst the character is too good to be true you warm to her honesty and way of dealing with things. I could go on because there is the combo of Angus Macfadyen and Elle Fanning who are over the top but a whole lot of fun for being so. But everyone is outshone by Maggie Elizabeth Jones who as Rosie is movie cute, but also comical and clever and she steals every scene she is in.
What this all boils down to is that "We Bought a Zoo" isn't the greatest movie ever made but it is one which gets it very right, leaving you with that special feeling which some movies strive for but don't get close to achieving.