We Bought a Zoo movie review

If you like feel good movies like I do, you will love “We Bought a Zoo.” Based on a true story, Matt Damon as a recent widower decides that a major life change will help him and his 2 children heal and find their joy again. Following the maxim that 20 seconds of insane bravery and risk taking will solve just about anything, he buys a dilapidated zoo and throws his life savings at it, hoping to turn it around. Teaming up with Scarlett Johansson, the very attractive resident zookeeper, he learns how to care for a variety of wild and endangered species that will melt the hardest, most damaged heart.

This film really took me back to the years when we had our own menagerie at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Every day, even when it was 10 or 15 degrees outside, we headed out in the early morning light to feed and care for the animals: a dozen llamas, 3 or 4 horses, and a smattering of peacocks, pigs, cows, goats, chickens, ducks, even a pond of koi. And then we repeated that same routine at 3 or 4 or 5 in the evening, communing with the setting sun and the early moon. Working with animals is one of the quickest ways to enlightenment; ask any monk and he will tell you that animals are the best teachers. What a remarkable way of life it was indeed, and the fun didn’t wear off for quite a few years, until one day, going out in utter darkness to break up the ice in the water tanks, I remember wishing I lived somewhere where I didn’t have to put on 2 coats and 2 pair of pants just to feed the family.

But back to the film: there’s also not one but two love stories within the story, both of them charming. (And if you’ve already guessed one is between Matt and Scarlett, you’ve guessed right!)

Matt’s brother (Thomas Haden Church) is an accountant who’s horrified at the thought of his brother leaving journalism for a zoo. That reminded me of my own accountant’s reaction to my leaving the field of law for healing – horrified!

Granted, this film is no “Descendants” – it isn’t at that level, even though they have quite a few plot pieces in common: both involve the death of a spouse followed by a major life decision. “We Bought a Zoo” is more contrived, there isn’t enough real interaction with the animals for my taste, but all that is minor: the only thing that really matters is how you feel when you leave the theatre and what you take with you. Rest assured you will feel light and happy on your departure and you will take with you a wider and gentler heart. That’s what really matters.

P.S. It’s a great film for the kids too.

Deborah King