Title: We Bought a Zoo
Genre: Family, Comedy
Director: Cameron Crowe
Aline Brosh McKenna
Music: Jon Thor Birgisson
Cinematography: Rodrigo Prieto
Thomas Haden Church
Maggie Elizabeth Jones
John Michael Higgins
Saw this one in the cinema, after a 6-year hiatus, Cameron Crowe eventually has returned to his director chair (documentaries excluded), but this a cliche ridden family dramedy clearly isn’t on a par with his prestige works like ALMOST FAMOUS (2000) or JERRY MAGUIRE (1996), despite being intermittently sparked by a bunch of decent animal cameos.
As oversimplified as most Hollywood production, the film never dare to touch a more fly-on-the-wall level of bona fides, one might take it for granted of the situation like that it is so common for an American single dad with two children to buy a zoo and swiftly tackles with the reconstruction of their home with such great ease and casualness (not to mention the film is based on a true story).
The film is generally pleasant but discharges a phony posing all over the places, substantially reaches its summit when a tempestuous row between the bereaved father and son (it seems a weight-gaining Matt Damon hasn’t done such strenuous work for ages), to give vent to all the suppressed displeasure accumulated, which is a banal gimmick only viable in the dramatized contrivance.
Scarlett Johanssan is clearly under the way of re-washing herself in her unassuming and more down-to-earth role (unexpectedly convincing in it, thanks to the lame kiss between her and Damon, another lame Hollywood trickery) after almost a decade from her breakthrough young leading lady status of GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING (2003) and LOST IN TRANSLATION (2003) and ironically she is still pining for her Oscar-nomination wannabe’s entrance, which is quite gloomy for now (the upcoming THE AVENGERS surely cannot be considered seriously).
Cameron Crowe’s previous flops have left him be shut out in the elite group of Hollywood bankable directors. (typically ALMOST FAMOUS is an unmountable barrier erecting mercilessly in front of him). This family-oriented project cannot act as his last straw, maybe he still has another shot, but the lukewarm credibility can mar his future path quite certainly.