Released almost a year ago around the holidays, Cameron Crowe's first narrative film in six years wasn't a great character study like Jerry Maguire or a coming-of-age film like Almost Famous, but instead it's an all-ages family film. There are a few moments towards the beginning where you might find yourself rolling your eyes. Recently widowed Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) has to struggle with finding his own balance of a mid-life crisis while raising two kids, one of whom is a rebellious boy (Colin Ford) who is getting into trouble at school. His job at the newspaper isn't doing it for him, so he goes and buys a zoo in a funny little "a-ha!" moment (I'm skipping through some other details, there is a rationality behind the inciting acts).
The film is pretty formulaic as there is a villain, romance, and a cast of eccentric one-note supporting characters (from a Scotsman to guy-with-a-monkey-on-his-back). The film softballs certain moments in favor of just being a family film as it follows your typically structured script to a T. The film does turn into something slightly more complex as it goes on due to Benjamin's character and Damon's sentimental and thoughtful portrayal. For example, there is a particularly great arguement between Benjamin and his son that puts a majority of the film in perspective. Like a lot of animated films, I feel that We Bought a Zoo will pander down some of its material to appeal to all ages, but Damon and Johansson are able to at least charm.