WE BOUGHT A ZOO (Fox, 2011) D: Cameron Crowe, w/ Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson. Rating: NN; Blu-ray package: NNNNN
Clumsy dialogue, mawkish moments and a story that can't reconcile its serious and comic elements make We Bought A Zoo a disappointing venture into family-friendly fun.
On the other hand, Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson are appealing leads, the setting is lovely, and the animals get lots of screen time.
Seeking to recover from the death of his beloved wife, Benjamin Mee (Damon) quits his job and moves to the country with his surly 14-year-old son (Colin Ford) and precocious seven-year-old daughter (Maggie Elizabeth Jones). He decides to reopen the failed zoo on the property, and the staff, headed by Johansson, is happy to help.
While Damon and Johansson handle the low-key character comedy, many of the other players seem to be in a much broader movie, notably Angus Macfadyen as a veteran zookeeper and John Michael Higgins as his government inspector nemesis.
A grizzly bear and a Bengal tiger figure in the story, but most of the animals appear in quick cutaways that only add to the disjointed feel. The feature-length making-of doc shows them to better advantage and gives a detailed look at the production and cast.
The gag reel and commentary are both funnier than the movie, the latter courtesy of long, tangential eruptions from J.B. Smoove, who plays a real estate agent.
EXTRAS Director, editor and actor commentary, making-of doc, Benjamin Mee doc, gag reel, more. English, French audio. English, French, Spanish subtitles.