We Bought a Zoo

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(2011) ★★

Channel4: PREMIERE Sunday 7 June, 1.30pm

Six months after his wife’s death, Matt Damon quits his job and takes his two kids – sulky Colin Ford, sweet Maggie Elizabeth Jones – to a new home. It’s a run-down zoo in the California countryside, complete with an oddball staff wackier than Michael Palin’s mob in Fierce Creatures. It’s a money pit. Matt could have saved himself a few bob by buying a football club. “Their happy is too loud,” says Maggie of noisy neighbours. And Cameron Crowe’s happy is too gooey. It always was. A minor improvement on his previous feature, the 2005 flop Elizabethtown, and by all accounts less dismal than his latest, Aloha. (In between times, he licked his wounds by making music documentaries.) Here Crowe’s adapting a memoir by English writer Benjamin Mee, who cared for his dying wife while establishing a wildlife park on Dartmoor for endangered species in 2006. The film has a lion called Solomon, Bengal tigers, pregnant peacocks, a depressed grizzly, and makes room for puppy love. The only things missing is the Easter bunny. Damon’s good though. He usually is. Even when stuck playing a saintly character who’s better looking than all the other dads.

Certificate: PG
Duration: 124min