We Bought A Zoo
Entertainment: +3
Acceptability: +2

Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Patrick Fugit, Elle Fanning. Drama. Written by Cameron Crowe, Aline Brosh McKenna. Directed by Cameron Crowe.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Loosely based on a true story, this comedy/drama concerns a recently widowed father who moves his family to a beautiful estate a few miles outside the city. The only catch is that the estate is also a dilapidated zoo replete with 200 animals, and the purchase of the home is conditional on the new owner keeping the menagerie and its entire staff.

PREVIEW REVIEW: I suppose I’d be considered the Grinch who stole the holiday film if I were to nitpick at the copious doses of sentimentality and the two or three hammy supporting performances, so I’ll tread lightly where I can. We Bought A Zoo is a gentle drama (with several humorous moments) that quickly resolves each problem that comes along, allowing us to munch our popcorn in peace. (How am I doing so far with that whole “tread lightly” thing?)

For me, the film has three positives that made this a feel-good movie experience. They are the frequent smiles of the three female leads: a little girl as she looks up at her daddy, a teenager in love with the new boy on the farm, and of course, Scarlett Johansson when she beams at Matt Damon for being, well, for being Matt Damon. Those are some of the greatest smiles I ever saw in the movies. Who cares about plot or performance when you have smiles that melt the heart? I wanted to hug each of them, especially Ms. Johansson.

There was one area that bothered me (Uh-oh, here it comes). This is a family who has tragically lost the mother. It is devastating for each of them, yet the filmmakers, as with the makers of the recent The Descendents and many, many other films dealing with the loss of a loved one, are careful to avoid any spirituality. When they lose a loved one, more people than not turn to their faith, or the faith or their childhood, for solace and strength -- except in the movies. No prayers are heard here, no mention of Heaven, (just that the mother’s spirit is in their hearts), and, at one point, in frustration the father utters “Jesus” name in anger. I’m sure the makers of the film would defend their position of avoiding any religious implications as an attempt to be P.C. In other words, they don’t want to offend anybody. But doesn’t that raise the question, if you don’t want to offend any nonbelievers by mentioning Heaven, then why offend Christians by having the lead actor profane Christ’s name? Bit of a double standard there, isn’t it?

I realize a lot of people use Jesus’ name as an expletive for reliving frustration and fear (indeed, nearly every actor in Tinseltown has done so on screen). And we Christians have become so accustomed to it that we often declare, “Oh, I didn’t even hear it,” or “I pay no attention when they say it.” If we were honest with ourselves, we’d just admit that we want to see the film, despite this offense.

Profanity does make it difficult for the Christian filmgoer. We wouldn’t be going to many films if we were truly bothered by the profane use of God’s name or that of the one sinless man who died on our behalf in order that we could spend the rest of eternity in harmony with the Creator of everything.

I don’t mean to sound too pious. I’ve failed my Lord far too often, including by the misuse of His name. But I never deny my God or my Savior. Hollywood does, frequently.

Now on DVD/Bu-Ray from 20th Century Fox.

Preview Reviewer:
Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Crude Language: One crude sexual innuendo.
Obscene Language: Four obscenities, the s-word, and a couple of minor expletives; the little girl says one crude term she has obviously heard the adults say repeatedly.
Profanity: One misuse of Jesus’ name by Matt Damon (I swear, it must be in his contract that he gets to say “Jesus” in each film).
Violence: None, though we see a man defenseless in front of a bear before the animal gets tranquilized.
Sexual Intercourse: None
Nudity: None
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: None
Drug Abuse: At the end of the day, the staff meets in a room on the property they’ve turned into a bar. The drink freely flows.
Other: The film deals with the loss of a mother and the boy and his dad have a dysfunctional relationship until…
Running Time: 95 minutes
Intended Audience: Family

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