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Perfect family film 'We Bought a Zoo' now playing through holiday season Jeri Jacquin | Fri, Dec 30 2011 01:40 PM

Now playing during the holiday season from director Cameron Crowe and 20th Century Fox is a dream film “We Bought a Zoo.”

This film tells the story of Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon), a father of two who has recently lost his wife. Not sure how to raise a family alone after spending his life traveling and exploring the world, Benjamin decides to move the family out of the city.

While house hunting he and daughter Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) find the house of their dreams. Of course, there is one catch – to get the home they must also take responsibility for a working zoo on the property! Benjamin decides this is another adventure he wants to take and packs up the family, including son Dylan (Colin Ford), and head for the zoo.

Benjamin also meets the staff that has been taking care of the animals headed by Kelly Foster (Scarlett Johannson). It is Dylan who quickly notices Kelly’s niece Lily (Elle Fanning) and thinks the move might not be so bad after all. Even Benjamin’s brother  Duncan (Thomas Haden Church) takes an interest in the goings on at the zoo.

The only thing that can change the success of the zoo is Walter Ferris (John Michael Higgins), who can either sign off on permits or close them down. It’s all about belief, family and a fresh start.

Final word
Damon can always be counted on as a solid actor. Playing the role of Benjamin Mee gives this actor an opportunity to play a role very different than we have seen. As a struggling father, it is interesting to see his interaction with the kids.

Johannson is fine in her role as zookeeper Kelly. This doesn’t seem to be a huge stretch of a role at all. There are some scenes in which she seemed to be rattling off a zookeeper’s manual more than interacting with castmates.

Jones as daughter Rosie is just delightful. She is cute, giggly and very much in love with the animals and it shows on screen. Ford as teen angst-ridden son Dylan was also another character who struggled to be believable.

Fanning is funny as Lily. Her quirkiness and unpredictability is fresh and light. Church as brother Duncan seem to just be having fun in his role and it came through.

The film is based on a true story and has brought Crowe out of hiding after seven years. His more notable films include “Jerry McGuire,” “Almost Famous” and my personal and forever favorite “Say Anything.”

Other cast members include Angus MacFayden as Peter MacCready, Patrick Fugit as Robin Jones, Carla Gallo as Rhonda Blair, J.B. Smoove as Mr. Stevens and Stephanie Szostack as Katherine Mee.

Tubs of popcorn
I give “We Bought a Zoo” three tubs of popcorn out of five. This is a very sweet and endearing family film. Although the story is somewhat predictable, it doesn’t make it less fun to watch. The characters mesh well, not only in their own personal stories but with the stories of the animals as well.

In the end – sometimes all you needs is 20 seconds of insane courage.

OnStage schedule continues with ‘The Elephant Man’

OnStage Playhouse, Chula Vista’s community theater, continues to celebrate its 26th anniversary with its 2011-12 season.

Upcoming highlights include:


By Bernard Pomerance, directed by Steve Murdock
Jan. 13 to Feb. 4, 2012
Based on the true story of John Merrick, a grotesquely deformed Victorian sideshow attraction, this compelling and heartbreaking drama explores the depths of human emotion by asking what makes a man a man. Is it outward appearance or inner morality?

Presented by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.

By Tom Stoppard, directed by Jenna Long
March 2-31, 2012

Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” is turned comically upside down and inside out through the eyes of Hamlet’s college friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Even for those not familiar with “Hamlet,” it will likely make them ponder life, laugh and possibly reconsider if indeed the world is a stage and we are merely players.

OnStage Playhouse is located at 291 Third Ave., in downtown Chula Vista. Single performance as well as series tickets are available by calling 422-7787 or by visiting the Web site at www.onstageplayhouse.org.

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