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Sneak Peek Review: Cameron Crowe's Wonderful 'We Bought a Zoo'

by
November 27, 2011

Cameron Crowe's We Bought a Zoo

Sometimes you go in to see a movie, unsure of really what to expect, and it sweeps you away, connects with you emotionally in ways you didn't think possible, then the tears start flowing without any control. That's what happened to me seeing Cameron Crowe's new movie We Bought a Zoo at the sneak previews held Saturday evening; it's one of the most endearing, heartwarming, joyful films I've seen this year (so far). Part of this is thanks to Crowe, his direction and cast, another part of it is thanks to Jónsi's amazing score, which I wholeheartedly believe deserves Oscar recognition. I love this film, it filled my heart with true happiness.

Crowe's We Bought a Zoo is based on the real-life memoir's of Benjamin Mee (played by Matt Damon), a journalist who moves his young daughter Rosie (played Maggie Elizabeth Jones) and son Dylan (Colin Ford) into a small, struggling rural zoo in Southern California to start his life anew after his wife passed away. Yes, this zoo really exists in real life, and Crowe captured the story of how Mee, calm but still devastated by the loss of the love of his life, decides to go on an adventure and bring this zoo, and all of its inhabitants, back to life. It's a family film at its core, but we still get a fulfilling story of how one family finds happiness again by stepping out from darkness into the sunshine, and putting a little care into something that needs some care.

Maybe it was just the mood I was in that night, maybe it was the fact that had just flown in earlier in the day from a wonderful visit with my family for Thanksgiving, maybe it was just that outstanding of a film made with a genuine passion by everyone involved. Whatever it was, it got to me, and I found myself wiping away tears multiple times, laughing often, and walking out with one of the warmest, happiest feelings one could wish for leaving a movie theater. I think my friend Jack Giroux said it best in his quick reaction to this film on Film School Rejects: "If The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is going to be the 'feel-bad' movie of Christmas, then this is certainly going to go down as the ultimate 'feel-frickin'-great' movie of Christmas." Indeed.

A large reason why this is such a wonderful movie is Cameron Crowe himself. If it had been directed by anyone else, it would not have turned out anywhere nearly as endearing or impressive, instead it would've been a cheesy Hollywood comedy with goofy animals and sound effects. Crowe, who if you know his work (e.g. Say Anything, Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous, Vanilla Sky) you already know is a talented filmmaker, directs with a subtly, not overdoing any of the few jokes or fun moments aimed towards a younger audience, but without losing an ounce of emotion in the story or characters. It's that balance that works wonders.

Of course, I must make mention of the score, written by Sigur Ros frontman Jónsi. I've been a longtime fan of Sigur Ros and while they do use "Hoppípolla" in the film once, his original score written for We Bought a Zoo is just extraordinary. I can't wait to get my hands on it to listen to endless times over. Every time I'd hear the score come in, used almost quietly in the background, right on queue I'd start to well up again. It certainly deserves at least an Oscar nomination. It was the cherry on top—an incredibly sweet one—of an already fantastic movie that instantly won me over and took my emotions on an adventure as unforgettable and enjoyable as the one Benjamin, Rosie, Dylan, and the entire staff of the Rosemoor Wildlife Park go on.

Editor's Note: Yep, I actually paid full-price for a ticket to see this Sneak Preview on Saturday evening. But even so, when you truly love a superb film, and I mean genuinely love it, you can't help but profess that love.

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  • norm
    Sounds great. Personally, I'm still wary of any zoo-related film after the unbridled horror of that recent "Zookeeper" film but Crowe usually delivers in spades.
  • http://twitter.com/darktaxidermist Davide Coppola
    That's nice to hear! Thanks for the review, Alexxxxx :)
  • Lane
    I caught the sneak preview with my entire family. I'd have to say i agree with you for the most part-- it's pretty great and absurdly heartwarming. The theater was sold out and the audience applauded a lot after. Great holiday family film. I was surprised at how many kids were in my theater. And how the movie kept their attention. It gets an 8/10 for me
  • KHD
    Awesome... love Cameron Crowe and can't wait to see this film.
  • jah p
    I can't wait to see later this  weekend..Cameron Crowe is one of my favorite directors...
  • Luke
    I saw it too. Absolutely fantastic. Crowe's unique direction is brilliant, especially in the "slideshow" scene. I haven't welled up with tear so many times in a single movie in AGES.
    • http://www.firstshowing.net Alex Billington
      Yep, that was the scene, I almost couldn't watch it, it got to me so much... wonderful!
  • Patricia Baker
    Question: I haven't been able to see it yet, but I will when it's released in December. My question is: what did anyone (everyone) think of the crazy airline pilot? My brother Tom played that role, and I am curious to hear opinions. I realize he only had a very small part, but still, a part is a part...
  • http://www.dartmoorzoo.com Shelly Monk
    As a Trustee of The Friends of Dartmoor Zoological Park Charitable Trust (and a good friend of Ben Mee) I would just like to congratulate Cameron Crowe and the cast and crew for bringing this wonderful true story to life on the big screen.  We won't get to see the full feature in the UK until 16th March, but absolutely love the trailers (which make all of us cry too!)  Everyone at Dartmoor Zoo (the one on which the film is based) are thrilled by the overwhelming and touching response and comments by those who have seen the film and loved it - congratulations Mr Crowe, you have made us very happy!
  • Anonymous
    I like the commercials for his new movie We Bought A Zoo!! I think their facebook Zoo contest is pretty creative too https://www.facebook.com/Weboughtazoomovie?sk=app_252032334854668
  • JC
    Just caught a sneak preview. Thoroughly impressed. 
  • http://twitter.com/BritBrave Brittany Brave
    I agree. Got my sneak preview of the extraordinary music from Rolling Stone http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/exclusive-stream-jonsis-we-bought-a-zoo-soundtrack-20111207. It is wonderful and beyond words. Jonsi's input is taking the story to a whole new level. Stream it, buy it - so worth it!

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