We Bought a Zoo is a 2011 American family comedy-drama film loosely based on the 2008 memoir of the same name by Benjamin Mee. It was co-written and directed by Cameron Crowe and stars Matt Damon as widowed father Benjamin Mee, who purchases a dilapidated zoo with his family and takes on the challenge of preparing the zoo for its reopening to the public. The film also stars Scarlett Johansson, Maggie Elizabeth Jones, Thomas Haden Church, Patrick Fugit, Elle Fanning, Colin Ford, and John Michael Higgins.
|We Bought a Zoo|
|Directed by||Cameron Crowe|
|Screenplay by||Aline Brosh McKenna|
|Based on||We Bought a Zoo|
by Benjamin Mee
|Produced by||Julie Yorn|
Thomas Haden Church
John Michael Higgins
|Edited by||Mark Livolsi|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$120.1 million|
We Bought A Zoo was released in the United States on December 23, 2011 by 20th Century Fox. The film earned $120.1 million on a $50 million budget. We Bought a Zoo was released on DVD and Blu-ray on April 3, 2012 by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Dartmoor Zoological Park (originally Dartmoor Wildlife Park), on which the film is based, is a 33-acre zoological garden located near the village of Sparkwell, Devon, England.
Benjamin Mee has been grieving the loss of his wife, Katherine, for six months. When his 14-year-old son, Dylan, is expelled, he decides to make a fresh start by buying a house.
Benjamin tours many homes with his 7-year-old daughter, Rosie, and his realtor, Mr. Stevens, but they find none to their liking. Rosie finds a listing for a large, old house, and upon seeing the house, they decide it is perfect for them. When they hear a lion roar, Stevens explains that if they want the house, then they must also buy the zoo on the property which closed several years before.
Benjamin sees Rosie happily playing with the peacocks and decides to buy it. Dylan, however, hates the idea of moving away from his friends, and retreats into his art (which has grown more macabre since his mother's death). Duncan, Benjamin's brother, tries to dissuade him from the purchase, but he buys it anyway.
The zoo staff, led by the 28-year-old head keeper, Kelly Foster, start making renovations to reopen the zoo to the public. When Kelly asks Benjamin why he bought the zoo despite knowing nothing about zoo management, he simply responds, "Why not?" Dylan befriends Kelly's 13-year-old homeschooled cousin, Lily Miska, who develops a romantic interest that Dylan is oblivious to.
Walter Ferris, a strict USDA inspector, arrives for a surprise visit and makes a list of repairs that would cost around $100,000. Benjamin cannot afford the repairs, so Rhonda Blair, the zoo's accountant, gossips that he will probably sell the zoo. The staff's morale sinks, fearing the property will be sold to a buyer that will close it down.
Dylan is overjoyed when Lily tells him the rumour about his family leaving, which hurts her feelings. Benjamin learns that Katherine bequeathed him an investment account, with instructions to use the money wisely while listening to his heart. Duncan advises him to walk away and start over with the money, but Benjamin decides to use the money for the repairs.
Dylan, unhappy about having to stay, confronts his father and a heated argument ensues. They reconcile the next morning and Dylan admits he misses Lily. Benjamin tells Dylan his favorite motto: that you only need 20 seconds of courage for something great to happen. Benjamin realizes that instead of trying to start over by forgetting his wife, he should accept that she will always be a part of him. Dylan, following his father's advice, confesses his love to Lily, and she forgives him.
Prior to the zoo's grand opening, the facility passes a stringent inspection by Ferris, who grudgingly wishes them good luck. They learn that the worst rainstorm in 100 years may wash out the zoo's grand opening. Fortunately, the weather clears by morning, but they are disappointed when no visitors arrive.
Dylan discovers that a fallen tree has blocked the access road, with a large crowd of visitors waiting behind it. The staff help them climb over the tree. There are so many people that they run out of tickets, forcing Benjamin and Kelly to look for more. They end up face to face in a shed, where Kelly admits her romantic feelings to Benjamin, and they kiss.
Benjamin takes Dylan and Rosie to the restaurant where he met Katherine. He tells them the story of how he worked up the nerve to approach her table with "20 seconds of insane courage." He visualizes her at the table, and asks why such an amazing woman would talk to someone like him. She responds, "Why not?"
- Matt Damon as Benjamin Mee, the father of Dylan and Rosie Mee, the owner of the zoo and the love interest of Kelly Foster, who is trying to restart his life after the death of his first wife, Katherine.
- Scarlett Johansson as Kelly Foster, the 28-year-old lead long-time zookeeper at Rosemoor Animal Park who is Benjamin's love interest and is a mother figure to Dylan and Rosie.
- Thomas Haden Church as Duncan Mee, Benjamin's older brother and an accountant and Dylan and Rosie's uncle
- Colin Ford as Dylan Mee, Benjamin's 14-year-old son, who is initially drawn to Lily and eventually develops feelings for her and has a strained and rough relationship with his father.
- Maggie Elizabeth Jones as Rosie Mee, Benjamin's 7-year-old daughter and Dylan's younger sister, who is very curious about all of the animals in the zoo and thinks living at a zoo is a grand adventure.
- Elle Fanning as Lily Miska, the 13-year old home-schooled cousin of Kelly and worker at the zoo's restaurant who lives within the zoo. Although she is too young to legally work, she is paid "under the table" out of her cousin's salary. She likes Dylan (who is at first unaware of this fact), but later gives up on her pursuit of a relationship with him after Dylan doesn't listen to her and unintentionally hurts her feelings. After he subsequently apologizes and tells her of his own feelings for her, she forgives him and they resume their friendship and start their relationship.
- Patrick Fugit as Robin Jones; the zoo's craftsman and Crystal the Monkey's owner.
- John Michael Higgins as Walter "Walt" Ferris, a strict zoo inspector who earns the dislike of many people, especially Peter MacCreedy.
- Angus Macfadyen as Peter MacCreedy, the carpenter of the zoo who had made many innovative enclosures for the zoo, and he claims that his ideas were "stolen" by Walter Ferris. Because of this, he has a huge and violent grudge against Walter.
- Carla Gallo as Rhonda Blair, the secretary and bookkeeper of the zoo.
- J. B. Smoove as Mr. Stevens, the Mee family's real estate agent.
- Stéphanie Szostak as Katherine Mee, the deceased wife of Benjamin Mee and mother of Dylan and Rosie Mee.
- Desi Lydic as Shea Seger, a woman with an obvious crush on Benjamin who always brings him lasagna.
- Peter Riegert as Delbert McGinty, Benjamin's boss before he 'starts over'.
- Michael Panes as the principal of Dylan and Rosie's school.
- Dustin Ybarra as Nathan
- Kym Whitley as Eve the Home Depot Clerk.
- Crystal the Monkey as Herself.
- Bart / Tank the Bear as Buster, the grizzly bear.
- Taylor Cerza as Zoo Patron (credited as Taylor Victoria)
In May 2010, Cameron Crowe agreed to direct the 20th Century Fox adaptation of Benjamin Mee's memoir We Bought a Zoo. He then began rewriting the film's script, which was originally written by Aline Brosh McKenna. This was the first film that was directed by Crowe since the 2005 film Elizabethtown. The film was released on December 23, 2011.
Crowe traveled to the set of the film True Grit to persuade actor Matt Damon to take on the role of the lead character in the film. Crowe also presented a script of the film, a CD of songs that Crowe composed himself, and a copy of the 1983 film Local Hero, with instructions "to not just read the script and make a decision". Damon was persuaded to play the role after he was moved by Crowe's music and found that Local Hero was a "masterpiece". As for Crowe himself, he had already decided on Damon halfway through their meeting, though the distributor Fox still had a shortlist of candidates to play this role.
In August 2011, it was announced that Icelandic musician Jón Þór "Jónsi" Birgisson, the lead singer of the band Sigur Rós, would be composing the music scores for We Bought a Zoo. Director Crowe described the choice as "only natural", since "Jónsi has been a part of the making of We Bought A Zoo from the very beginning".
The song Gathering Stories was on the shortlist of 39 songs that have a chance of being nominated for Best Original Song Oscar at the 84th Academy Awards. This song was co-written by Jonsi Birgisson and Cameron Crowe.
|7.||"We Bought a Zoo"||Jónsi||4:21|
|12.||"Whole Made of Pieces"||Jónsi||2:47|
Film tracks not on albumEdit
- "Don't Come Around Here No More" – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
- "Do It Clean" – Echo & the Bunnymen
- "Airline to Heaven" – Wilco
- "Don't Be Shy" – Cat Stevens
- "Living with the Law" – Chris Whitley
- "Last Medicine Dance" – Mike McCready
- "Buckets of Rain" – Bob Dylan
- "I'm Open" – Eddie Vedder
- "No Soy Del Valle" – Quantic Presenta Flowering Inferno
- "Like I Told You" – Acetone
- "Ashley Collective" – Mike McCready
- "For a Few Dollars More" – The Upsetters
- "Hunger Strike" – Temple of the Dog
- "Mariachi El Bronx" – Mariachi El Bronx
- "Haleakala Sunset" – CKsquared
- "Cinnamon Girl" (live) – Neil Young
- "Holocene" – Bon Iver
- "Throwing Arrows" – Mike McCready
- "Work to Do" – The Isley Brothers
- "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)" – Otis Rush
- "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" – Randy Newman
We Bought a Zoo grossed a total of $2,984,875 on its opening day in the U.S. box office, making it the sixth highest-grossing film that weekend. It subsequently earned $14,604,645 in its first four days of screening. Overall, the film grossed $75,624,550 in North America and $37,764,426 internationally for a worldwide total of $113,388,976. It is one of only twelve feature films to be released in over 3,000 theaters and still improve on its box office performance in its second weekend, increasing 41.4% from $9,360,434 to $13,238,241.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 64% based on 171 reviews, with an average rating of 6.23/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "We Bought a Zoo is a transparently cloying effort by director Cameron Crowe, but Matt Damon makes for a sympathetic central character." On Metacritic the film has a score of 58 out of 100, based on 40 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Roger Ebert, reviewing for the Chicago Sun-Times, awarded the film 2.5 stars out of 4, describing the film as "too much formula and not enough human interest". He added that the film's "pieces go together too easily, the plot is too inevitable, and we feel little real energy between the players". However, he praised Damon, who he said "makes a sturdy and likable Benjamin Mee". The New York Times reviewer Manohla Dargis criticized Crowe's direction, writing that it "makes the escalating tension between Benjamin and Dylan the story's soft center," while keeping "the brutality of illness and death... safely off-screen". She also noted that the film uses "classic movie logic", specifically pointing out the way that Benjamin quits his job and that he "doesn't agonize about how he'll keep his children housed, fed and clothed". On the other hand, Dargis wrote that "you may not buy his [Cameron's] happy endings, but it's a seductive ideal when all of God's creatures, great and small, buxom and blond, exist in such harmony.""
The Hollywood Reporter commented that the film "has heart, humanity and a warmly empathetic central performance from Matt Damon", although it "doesn't dodge the potholes of earnest sentimentality and at times overplays the whimsy"; ultimately concluding that "Cameron Crowe's film has some rough edges, but it ultimately delivers thanks to Matt Damon's moving performance.""
|List of awards and nominations|
|Year||Award||Category||Recipient(s) and nominee(s)||Result||Ref|
|2011||Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards||Best Live Action Family Film||We Bought a Zoo||Nominated|||
|Satellite Award||Best Original Song||Jónsi, Cameron Crowe –
|2012||BMI Award||Film Music Award||Jónsi||Won|||
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Movie: Drama||We Bought a Zoo||Nominated|||
|Choice Movie Actor: Drama||Matt Damon||Nominated|
|Choice Movie Actress: Drama||Scarlett Johansson||Nominated|
|Young Artist Award||Best Performance in a Feature Film - Supporting Young Actor||Colin Ford||Nominated|||
|Best Performance in a Feature Film - Young Actress Ten and Under||Maggie Elizabeth Jones||Nominated|
Differences between the movie and real lifeEdit
The movie's plot and actual events differ. The real Benjamin Mee is British. The story was adapted for an American audience and Mee approved the changes. The actual zoo Mee bought is Dartmoor Zoological Park, located in Devon, England. The fictional zoo in the film is called Rosemoor Wildlife Park and is located in California.
In real life, Benjamin's wife, Katherine, died after they had already bought the zoo and moved in. In the film, Benjamin bought the zoo after her death. In real life, Benjamin's father had died and his mother needed to move; the farm cost the same price as his parents' house, and his mother came too. Benjamin and his family made a specific and informed decision to buy a zoo. In the film, it occurred as a result of finding a house they liked.
Instead of an escaping bear, as portrayed by the film, it was a jaguar called Sovereign that had escaped. Benjamin's children were also younger (aged four and six respectively) than the children in the film.
In the film, the zoo was much easier to buy. In real life, it took almost two years to buy. Benjamin's first offer to buy the zoo was rejected due to his lack of experience in the zoological world. Finally, the real zoo opened on Saturday July 7, 2007. The movie moved that event up to the same date in 2010. This later date fell on a Wednesday, but was identified in the script as the original Saturday.
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