Parents' Guide to

Zoo

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Heartwarming fact-based WWII drama has sad moments.

Movie PG 2018 97 minutes
Zoo Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 9+

Based on 5 parent reviews

age 10+

Heavier than expected

I did expect "moments" of difficulty while watching this with my 10 and 7 year old, and I thought we could navigate it together. The darkness of war and loss really permeated most of the movie, not just moments. There was beauty as well, and themes of compassion and courage. I found the content too mature for my 7 year old, having to repeatedly pause it and explain about gas masks, bomb drills, why there is even war (ugh), and why the veterinary doctor was assisting with shooting the animals at the zoo :( Overall, a fine movie for a mature 9-10 year old with you watching, but sensitive viewers beware.
age 8+

Heartwarming Movie (even though people and animals die)

A lovely movie that deals with friendship, bullying, caring for each other, families dealing with loved ones going to war, and more. A great movie about a young lad in Belfast who's father leaves his job as a zoo worker and goes off to war. The movie centers around the boy saving a young elephant from soldiers ordered to execute the zoo animals. Sounds horrendous but it is handled so delicately by the director. We loved the film and would definitely recommend to families with children 8 years and upwards. Be warned though, it is a little weepy at the end.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (5 ):
Kids say (4 ):

This engaging, heartfelt period drama depicts a little-known story about the extraordinary way an elephant in an Irish zoo was saved during World War II. Historical films, particularly those set in wartime, aren't usually family oriented, but writer-director Colin McIvor has cast kids as the main heroes of the story. Viewers who love animals (especially those with a soft spot for elephants) will feel particularly drawn to the story, but it will also have strong appeal for those who enjoy WWII films or movies based on a true story. The movie's intergenerational aspect sets it apart, with Wilton (best known for Downton Abbey) doing a fine job as Ms. Austin. She's not the stereotypical "cat lady," because she has a wide variety of pets (from a ferret, parrots, and hedgehogs to chickens, dogs, and, yes, cats), and she's lonely but not a hoarder or otherwise mentally ill. The younger actors all interact with her in a natural, charming way.

Ms. Austin's budding friendship with Tom, Pete, and, in particular, Jane, is one of the movie's highlights. There's a touching moment when Ms. Austin realizes that neglected Jane could use some better grooming and offers to brush her unruly hair. What follows is a lovely scene of the older woman and the young girl talking and becoming friends. And Parkinson (Game of Thrones) is endearing as the determined, brave Tom, who's not only dealing with a plan to rescue Buster but with his father being deployed to a frightening war. Toby Jones has a memorable supporting role as a zoo employee, and the entire cast is believable as put-upon villagers trying to survive the threat (and later the reality) of air assault from the Germans. There's a heartbreaking reveal toward the end of the movie, but it only strengthens the reality that while war may offer people the opportunity to be heroic, it also brings tragedy and destruction.

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