My take on…We Bought a Zoo
Let’s get this out of the way first…I love zoos! When I travel, that’s something l like to see…the local zoo. There was a point when I thought I might want to be a zookeeper.
Second, Maggie Elizabeth Jones deserves (but probably won’t get) an Oscar nomination. Her performance in this movie is one of the best of the year…subtle, nuanced, funny, moving. That’s not, by the way, one of the best performances by a seven-year old: it’s one of the best performances, period.
I’m astonished at Matt Damon’s ability to transform himself, and still engage his audience…compare, for example, The Talented Mr. Ripley and The Bourne Identity.
I’m a big fan of the TV series Miracles, and that means putting Angus Macfayden in your movie is a plus for me.
Given all that, you would think that I would love We Bought a Zoo.
Unfortunately, I didn’t…it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great, either.
People sometimes ask me how you can tell if the directing in a movie is good or not. One of the key indicators is the consistency of the vision. While the movie is being made, it’s the director who has the big picture (so to speak).
This movie is a good example of where you can see an…inconsistency.
While Damon and Jones are giving us naturalistic performances, John Michael Higgins has been directed in such a way that he seems like a cartoon character. That may be an effort to de-fang his bad guy part, to make it easier for the presumably largely family audience to take.
While I can understand that sentiment, it makes the movie uneven…and that makes it less of an immersive experience. You just don’t know how seriously to take it, and that takes away from scenes in which we should be emotionally invested.
I wouldn’t avoid the movie…you can’t pass up a chance to see a binturong! However, it might be better waiting to catch it at home.
This calendar by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.