Our perception of animals is necessarily human. We see what we want, or what we think we want. Take We Bought a Zoo, directed by Cameron Crowe. This man gave us Vanilla Sky and Jerry Maguire, films that marketed human endurance with edge.
This latest offering stars Matt Damon as Benjamin Mee, a recently widowed father of two who leaves a memory-infested environment for a new start on an impulse-bought, insolvent zoo in southern California.
Naturally, the depressed bear and dying tiger are there for a reason. The former gets a bigger home and the latter is allowed to pass on in dignity. And naturally, the learning curve involves a lot of animal watching as Mee accepts suffering, heeds the fulfilment of basic needs and makes his bid to rejoin the general flow of humanity.
This is decent, un-sloppy sentimentality and it works well enough, with proficient performances from Damon, Scarlett Johansson as the resident straight-talking zookeeper and Thomas Haden Church as the brother who ends up coming along for the ride. Full marks for basic psychology. Exciting and innovative? Could do better.
We Bought a Zoo (Wir kaufen einen Zoo) | Directed by Cameron Crowe (USA 2011) with Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church. Starts May 3