We Bought a Zoo Movie

Here’s what you need to know about this movie. This isn’t necessarily a kid movie. I remember seeing a trailer months and months ago and was immediately interested. What wasn’t to like? It starred Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson. Directed by Cameron Crowe — THE Cameron Crowe, director of one of my very favorite movies of all time (Yes, he had me at hello). I didn’t think about it as being a kids’ movie, but I was interested in seeing it for myself.

The other bloggers on my junket were surprised at how moving it was, and I didn’t know where they had gotten the idea that it would be a funny animal film. Yes, it’s PG, but can’t adults watch PG movies?

But then I saw the preview that is running on TV now. I think that every single funny animal moment in the entire 2-hour movie is in that 90 second clip.

I honestly think that a kid under 10 would be bored. When I was in middle school, I went and saw all sorts of dramatic and emotional movies with my dad, and I loved them. If you have that kind of kid, take him or her. I think that I’ll take Amanda, my 13-year-old daughter, because the plotline that really resonated with me was the teen/parent angle. It really resonated with me, and I’d sort of like to see how it affects her.

I loved this movie. I laughed. I cried. I pondered.

So should you see it? Yes.

Should you take your kids, expecting a light-hearted family film? No. It is PG and is wonderfully free of sexual content and innuendo, but it is a plot-driven movie. There are also a handful of swear words (and 2 of them are uttered by children).

Be sure to watch that clip up there to see a great representation of what it’s all about.

We Bought a Zoo opens December 23. That’s still a few weeks away, but I want you to set expectations now, and go ahead and make a date with your teens or tweens, with your sister, your husband, or just go alone.

Did you know that We Bought a Zoo is based on a true story? Find out more about the book in my Books on Screen column at 5 Minutes for Books today. I’m even giving away a copy of the book over there.

Stay tuned the week of the movie’s release for insider information from my interview with the screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna (who wrote 27 Dresses and adapted The Devil Wears Prada).

**Disclosure: I attended a press junket sponsored by Twentieth Century Fox, but my very positive thoughts are all my own.

Original post by Jennifer Donovan


  1. Liz says

    Passing along to a friend who is always looking for good films, and has had some disappointments recently, so she can decide about her eldest. Thanks for the review.

  2. Sherrie says

    Thanks for your honest opinion of the movie. Now that I’ve read your take on it, I’m thinking maybe I shouldn’t take my animal-loving 7-year old. I can definitely see where you are coming from – I thought the first time I saw the trailer it looked great, but possibly a more serious film than all the funny animal movies we’ve seen in recent years.
    Still looking forward to seeing the movie though!
    (I also commented for the giveaway) Thanks :)

    • says

      I’m glad you came over here from 5 Minutes for Books. I wouldn’t take my 7-year-old. The language is iffy, but that’s not even the main reason. It’s just really plot heavy and dramatic. It’s a wonderful movie, but it’s not a fun animal zoo movie. If I take my 13-year-old daughter, I’ll report back about her thoughts.

  3. says

    Interesting, and yes, I think the ads have made it look more lighthearted and appropriate for younger audiences. We don’t go see many movies anyway, so I’m thinking this may be better for waiting to watch with JAM in the future.

  4. says

    I’m so glad I read this. My son is so excited to see the movie based off the latest commercials. I think I’ll see it, and let him watch it in a few years. Thanks for sharing an honest review!

    • says

      You’re welcome! Some people who have seen previews like this one feel the way I always did about the movie, but others have kids begging them to see it. I think that kind of marketing won’t help them, because an adult wouldn’t be able to enjoy the movie if their 8-year-old was bored as all the drama went over his head.

  5. says

    I did NOT know that it was based on a book. (I just finished reading your book review.) I WOULD have thought it was for the whole family but it’s good to know that it’s more about plot than funny animal scenes. That would definitely make a difference around here. While I might enjoy it, our young children would not. So thanks for that heads up!

  6. april yedinak says

    I really think my kids and I will enjoy this movie. Luckily they can appreciate ‘slower’ films just as much as the fast-paced ones.


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