We Bought a Zoo (Theatrical)

Theatrical Release: December 23, 2011
DVD Release: April 3, 2012
We Bought a Zoo (Theatrical)


We Bought a Zoo, a memoir by Benjamin Mee, tells the true account of how the author and his family used their life savings to buy a dilapidated zoo, replete with 200 exotic animals facing destruction, in the English countryside.

Mee, along with his children, had to balance caring for his wife, who was dying of brain cancer, with dealing with escaped tigers, raising endangered animals, working with an eclectic skeleton crew and readying the zoo for a reopening.

Dove Review

Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) recently lost his wife and has two kids to raise, Dylan and Rosie (Colin Ford and Maggie Elizabeth Jones). Mee is a writer who has interviewed dangerous people and traveled by plane to a hurricane. But his life is really about to become interesting.

Deciding he’s had enough and needs a change, he quits his job and winds up buying a house which just “feels right” but there is just one little thing–a zoo is attached with the deal. He meets Kelly Foster (Scarlett Johansson), the head zoo keeper, and tries to ignore the fact, at least at first, that they seem to have good chemistry. She helps him learn about zoo keeping and he needs all the help he can get, as it proves to be a bit overwhelming, especially with an inspection coming by a tougher-than-nails inspector who would love nothing more than to prevent the zoo from re-opening. It doesn’t help that Mee’s brother Duncan (Thomas Haden Church) is totally against the zoo idea and wants to get his brother away from it entirely.

Mee deals with his son’s “dark” artwork which features a decapitated head but he’s a good father who manages to get his son to use his talent in a good way later on. The sweet family moments and humorous bits which happen at the zoo combine to make this an above average film in many ways but the caveat is that it contains strong language, which regrettably prevents us from awarding our Dove “Family-Approved” Seal to it. It is really too bad as it just misses our acceptability mark for family viewing.

Content Description

Sex: A few innuendos; kissing by a couple.
Language: J-1; G/OMG-6; Slang for male genitalia-1; H-2; Freaking-1; S-3; BS-1; A-1; D-2
Violence: A teen's artwork is a bit disturbing which includes a bloody decapitated head; a newspaper headline about John Lennon's murder; some tense family moments and arguments between a father and son; a man throws darts at a man's picture and says, "I'll kill him, I'll kill him"; a boy kicks some snakes; a bear gets loose but is captured before harming anyone.
Drugs: Drinking in a few scenes; an "I'm filled with Scotch" comment; empty bottle of alcohol is seen.
Nudity: Mild cleavage.
Other: A boy's artwork features evil faces; grief over the death of a character.


Company: 20th Century Fox
Writer: Cameron Crowe & Aline Brosh McKenna
Director: Cameron Crowe
Producer: Julie Yorn
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 125 min.
Industry Rating: PG
Reviewer: Edwin L. Carpenter