A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The film is chock full of positivity. Mee and his team at the zoo all work together for a common good. Open communication, empathy, and effort make the new venture work and help heal the family.
Positive Role Models
Mee is genuinely interested in giving his kids a new adventure so that they, and he, can find joy again after his wife's death. He makes mistakes, but through it all, he keeps the lines of communication open with his kids, especially his 14-year-old, who starts out as rebellious and surly (he steals, kicks snakes, yells and swears at his dad, etc. -- i.e. not someone to emulate) but improves. Even Mee's brother, who doesn't always see things his way, winds up supportive. Kelly is a strong woman who's confident about her zookeeping skills and has genuine affinity for the animals.
Violence & Scariness
Some moments may seem dangerous, especially to young viewers. Some of the teenage son's dark, violent drawings are shown; including one of a decapitated head with blood squiring from the neck. The son also kicks a snake as if it were a soccer ball. Some threats ("I'm going to kill him" and someone saying they'd feed their in-laws to tigers -- said as a joke) and a humorous reference to using a tranquilizer gun on a human. In addition to the tranq guns, one apparently real gun is seen.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some flirtation between two teens and two adults; a kiss. Also some mild innuendo related to both humans and animals. A maternity portrait shows a woman topless -- nothing sensitive is shown, and it's not sexual, but her shirt is off.
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Language includes "s--t," "damn," "a--hole," "d--k," "hell," "oh my God" (as an exclamation), and more. Some of the swearing is done by kids.
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Products & Purchases
Labels/brands seen include Apple, Stella Artois, Budweiser, Rolling Rock, GMC, Ford, Subway, Paxil, Target, and Home Depot.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A few scenes of social drinking among adults and references to drinking; many photos of the passed-away wife include drinks. Mentions of animals' medications and a joke about how a tiger will get a "major buzz" from them.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that director Cameron Crowe's drama inspired by real-life events revolves around a family dealing with the loss of a beloved mother. As such, some moments of reminiscing and discussion about her death may be too sad/intense for younger kids. There's also quite a bit of swearing for a PG-rated movie (including "s--t"), some social drinking and flirting, creepy images (in drawings by an unhappy teenage boy), and the implication that the Easter Bunny isn't real. Nevertheless, We Bought a Zoo (which stars Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson) is a heartfelt and inspiring film about how a family pulls through difficulty and how being with animals -- and those who care for them -- can help heal the soul. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
How lovely it is to be able to sit back and watch Cameron Crowe and Matt Damon do what they do best: make a wonderful film. WE BOUGHT A ZOO may not be the most thrilling, suspenseful film, and it may not be a laugh-fest, but it's just the tonic for days when you feel hopeless about the world and, yes, about modern-day movies. It's earnest but not preachy, down to earth but not self-consciously so. (A scene in which Mee and his son lay their grief bare seems so, well, real.)
And, since it's a Cameron Crowe film, the music is awesome, if a little too perfect -- which could be said about the ensemble of actors as well. (That said, while Johansson is appealing, she does sometimes press too hard with her portrayal, giving her character a bit of stridency. Whether this is intentional isn't clear.) Parallel romantic storylines between two teens and two adults seem a little on the nose, and a supposed rivalry between two zookeeping icons is extraneous. But these are all forgivable quibbles. In the end, We Bought a Zoo wears its heart on its sleeve and is all the better for it.
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