We Bought a Zoo

Mark Lewis and Mark Lewis

Cameron Crowe’s “We Bought a Zoo” is an inspired film with earnest emotion that’s not schmaltzy, visually striking production values and superb acting throughout a triumphant story of courage and love. With “Zoo,” Crowe returns to the highest echelon of modern-day filmmaking.

“’All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise you something great will come of it,’” Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) compassionately conveys to his son during one pivotal scene. Watch for it to join the ranks of cinematic lexicon genius.

Crowe directed, produced and co-wrote the screenplay for “Zoo” which stars Damon as a widowed-father with two children who purchases a zoo on a whim to help heal the void caused by the death of his beloved wife and the mother to Dylan (Colin Ford), his 14-year-old defiant son, and Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones), his 7-year-old scene-stealing daughter.

The movie begins with Mee, a journalist for the fictional newsmagazine “Extra,” is demoted to being a blogger after his boss concludes that even after six months – Mee’s grief is an impediment to his writing. An exasperated Mee quits his job but doesn’t explode a la Tom Cruise in Crowe’s “Jerry Maguire” (nor does he scoop up a wary secretary and goldfish as he infamously exits the office).

Mee simply scoops-up his two offspring and after an exhaustive search – purchases a huge mass of land far away from civilization that he quickly discovers is a dilapidated zoo being run by Kelly Foster (Scarlet Johansson fabulously channeling Renee Zellwegger’s star-making role in “Maguire”).

Robin Jones (Patrick Fugit from Crowe’s “Almost Famous”) is one of the members of Foster’s rag-tag staff tasked with maintaining the closed zoo.

The promise of a new beginning prompts Mee to re-open the zoo despite the possibility of financial ruin and an antagonistic zoo inspector hell-bent on keeping the zoo inoperable.

“’Everyone thinks you’re a d*** mister,’” pipes Rosie to the inspector during one of “Zoo’s” many memorable moments.

Alright I can hear my 20 seconds ticking down and I did promise so here goes. . .

Without promising you that golden statuettes are a sure bet for “Zoo” come awards season – believe me it’s a gem you should not miss.

“We Bought a Zoo”

My final verdict: Loved it? Loathed it? Missed the Mark? – Loved it!