Entries in We Bought a Zoo (4)


'We Bought a Zoo,' 'War Horse,' and Others Open Christmas Weekend

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Three highly anticipated movies -- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, and The Adventures of Tintin -- opened in wide release on Wednesday.

Of those films, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol had the best first-day performance, earning $6.6 million, according to The Hollywood ReporterThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo earned $3.5 million on Wednesday, and The Adventures of Tintin grossed $2.3 million.

This weekend, three more movies join them at the box office nationwide.  Here's a closer look at the latest holiday releases:

-- We Bought a Zoo (opening Friday): Matt Damon is a newspaper columnist and single father who quits his job and buys property that includes a zoo.  He works with the zoo's staff, including a head zookeeper played by Scarlett Johansson, to care for the animals.  Thomas Haden Church and Elle Fanning also star in the film, which was helmed by Jerry Maguire director Cameron Crowe.  Rated PG. [Click here to read a review]

-- War Horse (opening Sunday): The Steven Spielberg-directed film, based on the stage production, is set in Europe and focuses on a horse's impact on soldiers and others in Europe during World War I.  Jeremy Irvine and Emily Watson star.  Rated PG-13.

-- The Darkest Hour (opening Sunday): The thriller focuses on five young people in Moscow who fight back against an alien invasion.  Emile Hirsch and Olivia Thirlby star in the film, which is screening in 3D.  Rated PG-13.

And opening in limited release on Sunday:

-- Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: An 11-year-old discovers a key left behind by his father -- who died in the 9/11 attacks -- and the child embarks on a mission to find the lock to which it belongs.  Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock star.  Rated PG-13.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Movie Review: 'We Bought a Zoo'

Spellman/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- We Bought a Zoo feels like two different movies, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  It just doesn’t start out being a good thing.

Cameron Crowe is a great storyteller, but it seems clear that the tepid reaction to his previous film, 2005's Elizabethtown -- a very personal film for him by his own admission -- shook his confidence.  I say that because intentionally or not, our introduction to the Mee family of We Bought a Zoo feels more like you’re briefly meeting some affable friends of a friend at a picnic with 200 other people you haven’t seen in 10 years.  What kept me interested in the story is my unwavering faith in Mr. Crowe -- and he did not disappoint.

Based on a true story, We Bought a Zoo begins six months after the death of Benjamin Mee's wife.  Played by Matt Damon, Mee struggles with life as a single dad. His adorable seven-year-old daughter Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) is wise and responsible beyond her years but his 14-year-old son, Dylan (Colin Ford), is struggling in the aftermath of his mother’s death. After Dylan is expelled from school, Benjamin decides to quit his job as a journalist and move his family to a new house, for a new beginning.

This part of the movie plays out like a formulaic after-school special, as though Damon and company were acting out a set of instructions from Ikea, not a script co-written and directed by Cameron Crowe. Then comes J.B. Smoove, brilliant on Curb Your Enthusiasm and hilarious in the NFL On Fox commercials, but so miscast here as a fledgling real estate agent showing Benjamin and Rosie Mee homes that it almost destroys the film's credibility.

Smoove’s Mr. Stevens shows the Mees a broken-down home on 16 acres of land and it’s love at first site for Benjamin.  The house offers just the challenge his journalistic and can-do spirit has thirsted for.  It's also a project to distract him from his grief, and a real opportunity to start over. There's just one problem, as Mr. Stevens reveals: “It’s a zoo!”

The idea of moving into a defunct zoo rather appeals to Mee, but he isn’t convinced until he sees Rosie cavorting with a peacock, telling the bird, "I want to live here. I want to keep you.” With that, ladies and gentlemen, we have our first real moment of the movie.

While Benjamin and Rosie are enthusiastic about their new digs, Dylan has to be dragged to his new home kicking and screaming.  Upon their arrival, his consternation is slightly allayed upon seeing, then meeting, Elle Fanning’s Lily, the niece of Scarlett Johansson’s fresh-faced zookeeper, Kelly.

The zoo staff is made up of loveable misfits, the most notable of whom is Robin, well-played by Cameron's Almost Famous star, Patrick Fugit (who should be getting way more work -- hello, Hollywood?).  The staff, especially Kelly, is a little leery of Benjamin’s intentions, until they realize Benjamin is enthusiastic about reopening the zoo and helping the animals.

Now we at last move into Crowe’s wheelhouse: relationships between men and women and, in this case, boys and girls. Kelly is falling for Benjamin and Lily is crushing hard on Dylan, but the residue of the men's grief has blinded them both to it -- or, you could say, clogged their emotional arteries. Throw in a dying tiger, a killer scene between Damon and Johansson about the fate of that tiger immediately followed by an explosive argument between Damon and Ford, and our faith has been rewarded: we have been plugged back into the Cameron Crowe Matrix. 

Not surprisingly, director and rock journalist Crowe treats us to an incredible soundtrack along our journey, as well as a score supplied by Jónsi, the frontman of the ethereal Icelandic rock band Sigur Rós. Crowe fans will also appreciate his use of “Hunger Strike,” by near-forgotten Pearl Jam precursor band Temple of the Dog.

The first half of We Bought a Zoo scared me. Outside of Benjamin celebrating a moment with Rosie by clanging utensils and saying “Give me some fork” (instead of a fist bump), the film was bereft of Cameron Crowe-esque moments.  But again, the second half of We Bought a Zoo is a different story. Crowe gets his mojo back, and we get poignancy, intimacy and humor: advice from Kelly to Dylan (“The secret to talking is listening”); words of encouragement from a father to a son (“Sometimes, all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, just literally 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery, and I promise you something great will come of it”); or simply a double entendre from a Home Depot clerk reminding Benjamin he left something behind ("Hey mister!  Your balls!”).

We Bought a Zoo won’t have you at “hello,” like Crowe's Jerry Maguire, but be patient: in the end, he will show you the money.

Three-and-a-half out of five stars.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Matt Damon's 'We Bought a Zoo' Out Friday

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Matt Damon’s film roles have included portraying a CIA assassin and a crooked Boston cop, but his latest big screen character is a simple family man who buys a zoo.

In the film We Bought a Zoo, Damon stars as a newspaper columnist and recently widowed father who quits his job and buys property that includes a zoo.  He works with the zoo's staff, including a head zookeeper played by Scarlett Johansson, to care for the animals.

We Bought a Zoo opens nationwide Friday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Animal Rights Group Seeks Warning on New Matt Damon Film

Gary Gershoff/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- A new movie starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson has become the subject of a special request by the folks at PETA in the wake of the killing of dozens of wild animals at a farm in Ohio.

In the movie, We Bought a Zoo, Damon stars as a father who moves his family to the countryside to help save a struggling zoo. Johansson takes the role of a keeper at the park, home to lions, tigers, zebras and bears, among other creatures.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has sent a letter to the film's director, Cameron Crowe, urging him to include a warning at the end of the movie about the dangers of owning wild animals. In a statement, PETA’s Lisa Lange says, “We Bought a Zoo conveys the misleading and downright dangerous message that no special knowledge -- just a lot of heart is needed -- to run a zoo.”

The animal rights group also insists that the studio behind the film, 20th Century Fox include warnings on all marketing materials, including movie posters, reports E!

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio