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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

We Bought a Zoo

Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Based on the 2007 book “We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals That Change Their Lives Forever”, this new film starring Matt Damon as dad and zoo-owner Benjamin Mee, is much more about family and healing from grief than it is about animals.

“What do you like more”, asks Lily (Elle Fanning) at the end, “people or animals?” Her aunt, Kelly (Scarlett Johansson) doesn’t have to answer as she gazes at Ben (Matt Damon). It’s people.

Benjamin, an adventure writer, lost his wife Katherine (Stephanie Szostak) six months before. He is raising 14-year old Dylan (Colin Ford) and 7-year old Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) alone. But Dylan is acting out and gets expelled from school and Rosie is old beyond her years, making their lunches but still believing in the Easter bunny. So, Benjamin quits his job and looks for a new home to start new. The realtor shows him a worn out farm house in the country and Benjamin wants it. Even when he discovers that it comes with a zoo, or wild life park, and a quirky animal-loving staff to go with it.
The original story took place in the south of England, but in the film it takes place in San Diego County. The main plot points parallel those of the actual story, though the developing romance between Benjamin and Kelly doesn’t seem to have extended beyond the movie.
You might think this is a film about animals, but it really is about people, death, dying, grieving, and moving on. The old tiger Spar is the only one we get to know, and throughout the film we follow the stages of healing from grief for Benjamin, Dylan, and Rosie.
Rosie, that is, Maggie Elizabeth Jones, plays her role to perfection. Matt Damon is very good as the grieving father. I like Elle Fanning a lot as an actress, but it seems like they added her in so that Dylan would have a love interest, someone to pull him out of himself. When Dylan and his Dad have a show down, it is spectacular, but real.
But there’s a problem with this movie; I don’t think director Cameron Crowe ever figured out how he wanted to tell this story to the audience. It’s billed as a comedy, but it is more of a dramedy. It’s about a zoo, but more about the people who bought it. The zoo is a backdrop for human interaction that is rather predictable. Thomas Hayden Church as Duncan, Benjamin’s accountant brother, is pretty funny, and there are some good moments, but there were too many big stars cast in roles that didn’t quite develop enough to drive the story to come full circle.

It’s not easy to make a movie about grief, and grief is uncomfortable yet it is part of all our lives. Not sure it’s the best choice for a Christmas release, but I can see the film extending a healing touch to those who are feeling loss. “We Bought a Zoo” offers audiences much to talk about if they can make their way through the somewhat heavy pall of sorrow the sunlight in the film never quite penetrates to reveal the hope that must be there.

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<p>That he was willing to pay the supreme price to follow Christ is what the Church believes. And it is enough.</p><p></p><p>The story of George's slaying the dragon, rescuing the king's daughter and converting Libya is a 12th-century Italian fable. George was a favorite patron saint of crusaders, as well as of Eastern soldiers in earlier times. He is a patron saint of England, Portugal, Germany, Aragon, Catalonia, Genoa and Venice.</p> American Catholic Blog Jesus was equal to the Father but did not feel it was below his dignity to obey. We cannot be free unless we are able to surrender our will freely to the will of God. We must obey with full freedom in a spirit of unity and submission and through wholehearted free service to Christ.

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