Director Cameron Crowe (Say Anything, Jerry Maguire) brings his love of quirky characters, left-field humor, and light rock music to family film-making with We Bought a Zoo, an engaging true story that’s a big contender for the year’s most uplifting film. Like all great uplifting films, there’s a strong undercurrent of sorrow and grief for much of the film’s running time. That, combined with a handful of profanities mean that parents should exercise caution with small children. This is not just the light and bubbly story of a family who buys a zoo as the trailer would suggest; it’s a tale of loss, heartache, and familial healing through forgiveness and the forming of new friendships. That said, it’s tremendously moving. It’s funny. It’s romantic. It’s got terrific acting, predictably by Matt Damon, but also by Scarlett Johansen, who dials down the glamour and gives her most down-to-earth and likable performance here. The supporting characters are all great fun. Sometimes Crowe’s affinity for music montages bogs down the pace, but overall this is a film that made me want to nurture and treasure my relationships and left a smile on my face.
CONTENT OVERVIEW:We Bought a Zoo is rated PG. There is no sexuality, crude humor, or violence. There’s a fair amount of mild-to-moderate profanity for a PG-rated film, one uttered by a small child (repeating what she overheard elsewhere).
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: We have to experience sorrow in order to grow and to appreciate joy. Successful families require forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and recreation.
Jonathan Decker is the clinical director of Your Family Expert. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist, husband, and father of five. Jonathan earned a masters degree in family therapy from Auburn University as well as a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology from Brigham Young University. He is an actor, author, and television personality.