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We Bought a Zoo (2011)

We Found a Gem — Written by Ban on 02.02.2013

It's a film about getting over a dramatic event. It is the story of a man who's wife died a few months ago, and that need to get through this event with his two kids. After the death of his wife, he has a hard time continuing living just like before, everything in his daylife reminds him about his lost love. So, when he quits his job and his son Dylan gets expelled from his school, Benjamin decides to find another place where hopefully they could restart their life. After having rejected many options, him and his 7-years-old daughter Rosie come to visit a place they fall in love with, which unfortunately has one problem: it's a struggling zoo. Reluctant at first, Benjamin finally decides to buy the place anyway and give the zoo a try, seeing how his daughter loves it. They then move to the zoo, although Dylan doesn't like the place, it being way too far from his old friends and life, making him retire even deeper in his drawing hobby. Then, with the almost benevolent zoo staff taking care of the animals no matter the lack of revenues, Benjamin starts to get the zoo back up to reopen it for the summer. Of course, he doesn't know much about zookeeping so he soon gets his share of disappointments, seeing the amounts of money it costs him; but with the sustain of the zoo staff he manages to keep up and finally get the zoo running again. He also learns to talk and listen to his son, and they get to know and love each other better. They eventually both get a love interest, him the zookeeper Kelly and his son her young cousin Lily.

The storyline, although not bad or anything, is really conventional: a guy who lost his wife and has a hard time getting back to normal life pushes himself in a crazy project everybody tells him he can't succeed on, hoping it'll make him forget about his wife. Of course, there is all the morals you might expect, like that it's difficult but with will, hard work and love you can pretty much do anything; that forgetting a dead person isn't right nor possible, you just have to learn how to live with it, keeping the good memories and letting it go; that your father loves you, and if he don't show you what you expect from him it's because he don't know how to talk to you -- an vice-versa; all that kind of boring stuff.

This could have ended up in a bad movie like there are so many, just as boring as the plot is. But fortunately it didn't. It's not a great movie either, but it's a good one. The zoo animals give beautiful pictures and are used as characters, which helps making the audience care about the whole thing. The above-mentioned conventional story is well told, and although the director don't hesitate to use each and every expected trick to touch the audience, he succeed at not making them heavy or annoying. Of course, I wished the man didn't kiss the girl, and I wished there wasn't this scene with Dylan and his own love interest getting back together, but it could easily have been worst, and actually is not a large part of the movie.

The actors are all correct, and some are good. Actually, the gem in the movie is the young Maggie Elizabeth Jones, playing Benjamin's young daughter Rosie, that shines in every scene she's in. She truly is the sunshine of that movie to me.

To summarize, it's a conventional story without much surprises, but driven well enough to make it actually nice and do it's primary job: making you care for 2 hours and feel good and be happy when finally the end credits scroll. And there is Maggie Elizabeth Jones.

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