We Bought a Zoo ***

December 29, 2011 by J-Wire
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After the twin disappointments of Vanilla Sky (which critics generally liked but the public did not) and Elizabethtown (which was equally dismissed by critics and the general movie-going populace), Cameron Crowe has hunkered down in relative obscurity for six years. He has recently emerged with the documentary Pearl Jam Twenty and a new feature film, We Bought a Zoo. Although the latter does not rank alongside Crowe’s best, it is an improvement over Elizabethtown. Designed as a family film based on the memoirs of Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo is heartfelt but safe. The missing element is the edgy irreverence that elevated Crowe’s best directorial efforts – Say Anything, Jerry Maguire, and Almost Famous – above their generic counterparts.Salesforce JW

The tone of We Bought a Zoo veers from feel-good to maudlin. Some of the problem may devolve from the original material, but Crowe’s screenplay was not original – he re-wrote one credited to Aline Brosh McKenna, who claims an uneven body of work (her most recent movie: I Don’t Know How She Does It, but she was also responsible for The Devil Wears Prada). The general sense of blandness and predictability that marks the story’s progression does not damage its emotional strengths. We feel for these characters and, because we care about them, we yearn for the highs the film ultimately delivers.

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