The plot, based on a true story which I was familiar with goes as thus. Recently widowed writer, Benjamin (Matt Damon) is struggling to keep his family on the straight and narrow. He is close to losing his job and has a fourteen year old son who keeps getting into trouble at school. After his son is expelled, Benjamin decides to up sticks and finds a lovely house in the country. The house has one drawback though, it’s a zoo. With the help of a dedicated team which includes Head Zookeeper Kelly (Scarlett Johansson), Benjamin tries to bring the ailing zoo up to standard before a grand opening in the summer.
I think from the trailer and even my paragraph above, 95% of people could guess how this is going to turn out. There are no shocks or surprises and you can see all the jokes from a mile off. The film over uses the families loss to try to inject heart into the film and I think this is a mistake. It constantly pulls on the heart strings by showing Damon looking at picture after picture of his wife while terrible music plays underneath. We know how hard it must be but the film keeps pulling the audience back to it. The family also only appear to miss the mother at convenient moments which doesn’t feel very realistic. The whole film is also miss-sold by its trailer as a comedy. Pretty much all of the comedic moments are in the trailer and it is much more of a drama.
There are plenty of plot holes here too. Damon’s son Dylan (Colin Ford) is expelled for drawing an inappropriate mural in class which is put up in a corridor anyway along with murals depicting love and recycling etc. Also, Scarlett Johansson’s character complains that she doesn’t have time to see her friends or find a man but spends all of her free time in a small bar at the zoo with the three or four people she works with. The whole story is oversimplified which makes it feel unreal, even though it is based on actual events. Both Benjamin and his son spend half the film oblivious that they both have attractive women after them. I know they’ve just had a loss but come on!
|It wasn't all bad...|
The film does pick up in the final few minutes for the sweet ending that we all expected. I’d expected more from an interesting true story and great actors but it is nothing more than mediocre.