I’ve finally got around to watching the trailer for Cameron Crowe’s new movie We Bought A Zoo (usually I would have been straight there but it’s been a busy 24 hours!) and I’m basically grinning from ear to ear through every second it plays. I can feel myself falling for it already. I love Cameron Crowe movies. I love how they make me feel, his idealistic views on life, how he mixes the sweet with the sour, how the character’s in his movie live through some really messed up and dark situations but with support and a helping hand come out stronger on the other side. I love how he makes the small things feel really big.
He says it best through Tom Cruise in a moment that gives me goosebumps each time I watch Vanilla Sky;
“The little things… there’s nothing bigger, is there?”
Quite frankly it’s been way too long since Cameron Crowe made a movie. Six long years have past since Elizabethtown, a sucker punch of an emotional movie about mortality and coming home that I’m certain if it had starred Tom Cruise in 1995 (as it felt like it was written for) instead of Orlando Bloom it would have caught on more than it did. I still regularly play the movie, I just think it’s a little mis-cast in the leading thespian department, though it holds by far and away Kirsten Dunst’s most likeable performance is in that movie.
So here we are with We Bought A Zoo, a big 20th Century Fox Christmas release that sees Crowe play it a little more mainstream than I’m used to but despite a few moments of broad family comedy (it is co-scripted by The Devil Wears Prada & Morning Glory writer Alison Brosh McKenna), I know I’m in the hands of a masterful storyteller.
Matt Damon stars in the dramedy based on the memoirs of Benjamin Mee whose life crumbled at the news his wife was dying of cancer, and he made the decision to upsticks elsewhere – purchasing a struggling zoo with over 200 exotic animals the whole family (the in-laws including) could run, fullfilling his late wife’s dying wish. Much like Elizabethtown, it’s a movie about characters trying to come to terms with something they’re lost, and finding connections with the people around them.
At the zoo he meets spirit zookeeper played by Scarlett Johansson who perhaps could hold the key to a second chance of love. Support comes from Thomas Haden Church as Ben’s brother with Elle Fanning, Angus MacFadyen, John Michael Higgins, J.B. Smoove and Patrick Fugit also starring.
You can watch the trailer over at Apple and hear once again Crowe going to his vinyl shelf to pick out some classics from the past including Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More“. There’s also heavy use of Sigur Ros tack “Hoppiola” which reminds us that frontman Jón Þór Birgisson is actually scoring the film itself.
Importantly, when you strip away the zoo/comedy moments it’s the gravitas that Crowe manages to find that will make this movie work. Sitting on the bench like Kurt Russell speaking to Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky or like Gregory Peck in one of Crowe’s favourite movies To Kill A Mockingbird, it’s that moment with Matt Damon and the young kid speaking of courage that will win everybody over.
We Bought A Zoo is coming December 23rd. I can’t think of a better time for this film to play than Christmas.