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FILM FANS: 'We Bought a Zoo' had heart, but not much else

Rick Wright

Rick Wright

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Cindy Evans

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Laurel Grams

EDITOR'S NOTE: Film Fans features local residents reviewing the film of the week: "We Bought a Zoo." Want to be a film fan? Email features@gwinnettdailypost.com.

3 Stars

This was a very well done film. I was very impressed with Matt Damon as Benjamin Mee, a recently widowed now single dad of two, going through his grieving. In an emotional decision and attempting to do something new, he buys a new home, which happens to come with a zoo.

It is fun to watch his daughter, Rosie (adorably played by Maggie Elizabeth Jones) fall in love with the animals. Simultaneously, his teenage son, Dylan, is having serious problems in school and expressing himself through dark artwork. I enjoyed the evolving relationship with the zookeeper, Kelly, played sweetly by Scarlett Johansson.

There is a lot of raw pain in this movie but also beautiful moments of light and hope. This will pull at your heartstrings and you will enjoy the journey of the zoo adventure along with all the family.

-- Cindy Evans, Duluth

1 Stars

With the exceptional star quality and the promise of a compelling true story, I expected a decent movie but this just didn't measure up at all. In addition, whatever the target audience was, the movie missed them by a sizable margin. So here you have the single dad lamenting the recent loss of his wife and trying to be what his kids need given their own emotional journeys. Then one day the dad quits his job and decides to buy a zoo, which totally defies economic or common sense reality. Good premise, but lousy execution.

First, the movie is over two hours long -- get real. The supporting cast fails to fill an enormous void. The screenplay resembled something that may have been written by a 10 year old.

Then there is the bad orchestrated struggle with the zoo staff and animals that meanders down the long predictable road. This movie is just too slow for kids and too dumb for adults. It's in a "no man's zone" of celluloid quicksand wasteland and it can't get out. Seems you either need to bond more with the animals or have a more engaging storyline, even if you stretch the truth a bit, but these true stories are not getting it done. In the end, you're compelled to acknowledge that without the sheer star power of Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson this movie probably would not have been released theatrically.

-- Rick Wright, Auburn

3 Stars

"We Bought a Zoo" was the perfect holiday family film. It had all the right elements: a heartwarming story, cute kids, good looking parents, a smarmy bad guy, and of course, animals. Be forewarned, though the animals are cute, they act like animals, which I liked. No talking, acting like humans or outsmarting the people. How refreshing.

The movie was not perfect. It ran a little long and some of the "flashbacks" sequences where not necessary. Be sure to bring some tissues because the ending will tug at your heartstrings.

-- Laurel Grams, Lawrenceville