Thursday, 22 March 2012

Movie #27 We Bought A Zoo

Another quick one: the rather literally-titled We Bought a Zoo. Cameron Crowe's Damon/Johansson vehicle, is a curiously tricky thing to review. Not because it's a challenging example of the cinematic art, but because in fact, despite only seeing it a couple of days ago, I can barely remember anything about it.

Adapted from British journalist Benjamin Mee's whimsical memoir of his own experience doing up a run-down zoo in the (relative) wilds of Dartmoor, Crowe shifts the action to California, with widower dad Matt Damon upping sticks en famille from the big city to the titular zoo. And, as an inoffensive (apart from a couple of 'bullshit'-level swears), syrupy family Saturday afternoon melodrama, it's more-or-less OK: if all else fails, there are animals to look at.

So the good things, in brief: Thomas Haden Church is in it, the soundtrack is good and the animals are winningly photogenic. The downsides are more numerous - the story has been fairly obviously squashed and squeezed into a Standard Hollywood Narrative, and it doesn't quite work. Matt Damon - who I like - is somewhat exposed here (not to mention has terrible hair), and the supporting cast are hardly stretched. It's shot with lovely light; the palette almost approaches sepia at times, but literally no risks are taken here at all: this is filmmaking by the book, with none of the mainstream sass of Crowe's earlier landmark movies. The only thing distinguishing ...Zoo from, say Beethoven, is the occasional PG-level naughty word and the Neil Young tunes in the background. Inoffensive fluff, no more, no less.