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We Bought a Zoo (DVD)
Member Name: lyndsey1989
We Bought a Zoo (DVD)
Advantages: Based on a true story, characters, plot, animals
Disadvantages: Some of the changes that were made I felt would have been better left unchanged
As usual, I didn't quite make it to the cinema to see this but luckily when I looked yesterday on Sky Box Office it was showing on there so yesterday evening me and my partner decided to watch it. I thought that it would be a film that we could watch together as it's definitely not a chick flick and I thought that the content would appeal to my partner because it's such an amazing story. As we watched this on Box Office it is a film only review.
The film begins by introducing us to Dylan; he is fourteen and has been playing up at school. His Dad, Benjamin is understandably angry and he is trying to convince Dylan that this kind of behaviour is not the way to go. When he learns that Dylan has not read a book he was supposed to for that days class he is not happy. He's in the middle of telling Dylan he's on his last warning at school and how he must behave when Dylan cuts in saying that they aren't likely to punish someone who's Mum died just six months ago.
Dylan is upset and this statement brings a resounding icy tone to the car. His little sister Rosie looks sad and Benjamin doesn't quite know what to say. He's relieved when he finally pulls up at the school however he is then subjected to more stress - women giving him lasagne to take home, Dylan's school bag breaking etc. All he needs is a break so he is happy to be meeting his brother for breakfast but of course, that all goes pear shaped too when he suggests they go to the diner that Benjamin first met his wife in.
Getting back to work, where Benjamin is a writer brings more upset to the day when the editor suggests that Benjamin is kept on for a type of freelance work. Benjamin flips. He knows he wants to let him go but is just playing the freelance card out of sympathy - he's a man who's just lost his wife and he's trying to look after a troublesome fourteen year old and a seven year old. He storms out of the office and decides that he's not writing any more.
At home that evening his daughter, Rosie is kept awake by the neighbour's party. It is then that Benjamin decides they are moving. It is best all round, a fresh start for them all. Away from the memories of their beloved wife and mother. The next day, he and Rosie go house hunting but nothing is suitable. They are just giving up hope when they stumble upon a house with a lot of land. Benjamin is excited but the estate agent has reservations...the land is home to a zoo.
When I initially heard that this was being made into a film I was very excited because I think that Benjamin's story is brilliant and I was keen to see it brought to life. However, this is an American film and although usually I don't have any reservations about American films I just felt that this one may have been better off being kept British as the biggest pull to the book for me was that it had happened in Devon, somewhere relatively close to home, that I had visited many times before and for me, this really aided the story coming to life and made it even more thrilling for me because I couldn't quite believe how interesting it would have been to embark upon Benjamin's adventure. However, when I heard the leading roles would be played by Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson I did soften a bit because they are big names and very strong actors and I knew that they wouldn't have agreed to do something unless it had a very good script etc.
The opening of the film is good and it really helps to highlight how much the Mee family are struggling with life after the death of Katherine. Rosie seems to be the only one who is willing and wanting to talk openly about her mother, Dylan is at a difficult age as it is and Benjamin is too distraught to talk about it. Benjamin and Dylan have a strained relationship and this is really highlighted in the opening of the film which helps to set the scene and gives the impression that Benjamin, although trying his hardest, really doesn't know what to do.
As soon as Benjamin and Rosie have visited the zoo the pace of the film really picks up as there is so much going on. The zoo is in need of complete restoration and they are working to a deadline. Sadly, Benjamin didn't quite anticipate how much this would cost but zoo animals are an expensive business what with their food, medication, bedding, enclosures and at many points Benjamin did seem close to giving up.
I don't know how true to life the characters in the film are but I have to talk about Rosie here as she is amazing and brings so much to the film. She is very similar to Karen from Outnumbered in the fact that she says things so matter of factly and is a very determined young lady. She is absolutely adorable too and, although she is only seven she has taken on the women's role in the household and taken it all in her stride.
Benjamin is played by Matt Damon and although it sounds silly I kept forgetting it was Matt Damon despite the fact that I am a big fan. In the film he has longer hair and wears glasses so therefore he was visually different to his usual self however, I also haven't seen him in a role like this before where he is a family man and the film isn't filled with action. I was very pleased with his performance as I felt it was very strong and he really helped to depict exactly what was going on with Benjamin throughout. I really felt his pain for losing Katherine and it was obvious how much he was trying to provide a future for his children.
Dylan is a strong character and is interesting to watch because of course, at fourteen he is struggling with teenage life as it is, this is bad enough without losing your mother and then moving away from all that you know to a rundown zoo. Although Dylan initially shows a hard exterior as the film progresses it is easy to see that he is really struggling with all the changes over the past few months and all he wants is to feel happy and himself again. He is fond of Rosie which I thought was nice because often at this age they are like cat and dog with younger siblings but it's clear he really cares for her.
The other main character is Kelly, the head zookeeper who is played by Scarlett Johansson. She is a very strong woman figure and is determined not to let the zoo disappear. She is extremely fond of the animals and isn't afraid of hard work. Initially I did think that Kelly had a bit of a hard exterior which meant it wasn't easy to see what she was really like but as the film progressed we got to know her more and more and she was a lovely character who had a lot of love to give.
The acting in the film is first class. There are so many emotions depicted throughout the film - bereavement, grief, anger, sadness, happiness, discomfort, joy and many many more and all of these are done very well. The actors really seemed to get inside the minds of their characters and I feel that they depicted them very well.
Of course we cannot forget the animals as; after all they are the zoo! Beautiful animals are in this film and they really helped make the film what it was. I love animals, as does my partner and it was brilliant to see these animals on screen and for them to be given a personality without being given a voice. Any pet owners will know just how big an animal's personality can be but often I find this is ignored in films unless the film is animated and the animal has a voice. This film was all realistic and no animals spoke but it really helped to get across the animals personalities too due to their behaviour and also what the humans said about them.
The plot of the film was interesting and it kept my attention well. Although I already knew the ending of the film and to be honest it was fairly predictable too even if you hadn't read the book I still enjoyed watching the events leading up to this and seeing what would happen along the way. My favourite part of the film was probably when the Mee family first arrived at the zoo as there was so much uncertainty about how this was going to end and the family found it a very difficult time what with needing to get to know the members of staff, meeting the animals and learning about their care, renovating the zoo and making it a safe and comfortable place for the animals and also the opposition faced from the outside. It was common opinion on the outside, especially with the authorities that Benjamin was going to fail. This made the Mee's and the zookeepers work even more difficult as they began to doubt themselves too.
The ending of the film was perfect and was similar to that of the book which did please me because after all this is based on a true story and I think it is right to show what really happened to Benjamin and how it happened. I felt the ending was just the right length as everything was explained and covered but it did not drag on at all and everything fitted in really nicely. It was one of those films that when the end credits began rolling you realised you needed to stop smiling now so it was a good ending.
==How true is it to the book?==
Although the film is based on the Mee family and their story I found there were quite a lot of differences in the film compared to the book. I did find that the film in my opinion should have been made more similar to the book as this was the true story but I don't know if this is because I read the book first and therefore saw that as how things should be. A lot of things were changed and some of these changes were good as it added to the plot of the film and helped to run the story more smoothly but some I felt should have definitely remained the same. The main one that jumped out at me immediately as the film began was that in the book and therefore in real life, Katherine was still alive when they bought the zoo. I don't know why the film producers felt the need to change this but personally I feel as though the film may well have had a stronger plot if it began with Katherine still alive as it would allow us as the audience to get to know her a little aswell and therefore understand Benjamin's, Dylan's and Rosie's grief better.
The film was released in 2012 in the UK.
The DVD is now available but you can also rent it on Sky Box Office for £3.49.
It stars Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Colin Ford and Maggie Elizabeth Jones.
It has a run time of 124 minutes.
It was directed by Cameron Crowe.
It is rated a PG in the UK.
I did enjoy this film a great deal. Initially I did have reservations because it is instantly recognisable from the opening that a lot of things were changed from how things really happened however I think the film works really well. Personally I would have felt more drawn to the film if it was made in England because I think it would have helped to assist the realism of the film. However, the plot was fun and fast and flowed very well making it an enjoyable watch. The acting was very strong and I loved all of the characters and at times felt as though they were my family.
Overall, I did really enjoy the film as did my partner and would certainly watch it again and recommend it to friends. I thought it was a fun drama which depicted a true story well and made a very interesting watch. Great film for families or any animal lovers.
You can find out more about the real life zoo and Benjamin and his family here http://www.dartmoorzoo.org/
Summary: Very good film