WE BOUGHT A ZOO (Cameron Crowe). 124 minutes. Opens December 23. For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NN
The family in We Bought A Zoo attempt to forge a new life after the death of their matriarch six months earlier. Similarly, the movie's director, Cameron Crowe, attempts to resuscitate his features career after the disastrous Elizabethtown nearly killed it six years ago.
Matt Damon stars as Benjamin Mee, a thrill-seeking journalist with a troubled emo son and a precocious little girl who seems manufactured to giggle adorably - she does so at every opportunity.
The mourning Mee clan leave their troubles behind and embark on a mission to rehabilitate a broken-down zoo, which the characters themselves will practically tell you is an allegory for rehabilitating themselves.
From taming a depressed grizzly bear to taming an emotionally torn pubescent, the unfocused movie finds whimsical solutions to the incredible challenges the Mee family faces, which makes it that much harder to believe it's based on a true story.
Call it a fluffy, family-friendly alternative to The Descendants, with Damon, George Clooney's Ocean's 11 pal, doing a whole lot of mugging to make the heavy-handed dramedy work.
There's an audience for such lazy sentimentality, which means Crowe's half-hearted attempt to revive his career might actually succeed.