Movie Review: We Bought a Zoo

It's nice to cuddle a small kitten or puppy in one's arms but, as far as wild animals go, I usually am contented looking at them when metal or glass is separating us, especially when it comes to snakes! I like learning about animals from a safe distance, so to speak. Perhaps that's why some of my favorite cable channels include Animal Planet, National Geographic, and Discovery. I also would probably think a hundred times first if the last job on earth is being a zookeeper :p  

Thus, I really, really admire people who are brave enough to work with temperamental animals every day. When I saw the trailer of We Bought a Zoo a few weeks ago and read several press releases about it, I kept thinking what possessed the book author (the movie was adapted from a true story, by the way) to buy a house that comes with a zoo?! After watching the press screening last week, I understood why they needed to be there. 

We Bought a Zoo is a very heartwarming family movie that will touch young and old alike, deeply. Matt Damon did such a great job portraying Benjamin Mee, the widower who was having a difficult time moving on after his wife's death on top of dealing with his son Dylan (Colin Ford), who has issues of his own.

My favorite line in the movie: "All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage,
and I promise you, something great will come of it."

Benjamin resolved to find a new home for himself and his two children away from the places that hold beautiful memories he deemed too painful to be reminded of. And so their adventure began when he and his daughter fell in love with a house out in the countryside, which happens to have a zoo for a backyard. In a nutshell, they "inherited" all the animals and accompanying expenses there when they bought the property.

The Mee's passage towards healing became filled with challenges that were overwhelming at times. And yet, they persevered to come out of it and make everything -- their relationships with each other and the zoo staff, the difficulties of caring for more than a hundred animals, and preparing the zoo for opening day -- work.

We Bought a Zoo is a story of triumph over adversity. It is about hope, love, friends, and family. Matt and Colin are joined by an excellent cast composed of  Maggie Elizabeth Jones (as the adorable Rosie Mee), Scarlett Johansson (as Kelly the zookeeper), Thomas Haden Church (as Duncan, Benjamin's funny brother), Elle Fanning (as Lily, the simple country girl with a generous heart), and John Michael Higgins (as the snooty zoo inspection officer).

I hope fathers would come see this movie with their wives and children so they can better appreciate what they have. I love Matt's performance because he was able to express deep, and sometimes raw, emotions flawlessly. As expected, a lot of eyes were misty when the cinema lights went on but we shed happy tears as we rejoiced with the characters in their journey to truly finding themselves and each other. 

*We Bought A Zoo opens January 18 in Philippine theaters from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.

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