Saturday, May 26, 2012

We Bought a Zoo

Koti eläintarhassa / We Bought a Zoo [Swedish title]. US © 2011 Twentieth Century Fox / Dune Entertainment. P: Julie Yorn. D: Cameron Crowe. SC: Aline Brosh McKenna, Cameron Crowe - based on the memoir (2008) by Benjamin Mee, translated into Finnish by Laura Beck / Otava (2009). DP: Rodrigo Prieto. PD: Clay A. Griffith (as Clay Griffith). AD: Peter Borck. Set dec. Wayne Shepherd. Cost: Deborah Lynn Scott (as Deborah L. Scott). M: Jon Thor Birgisson (as Jónsi). ED: Mark Livolsi. Casting: Gail Levin. C (copied from English Wikipedia): Matt Damon (Benjamin Mee, the father of Dylan and Rosie Mee and the owner of the zoo, who is trying to restart his life after his wife passes away), Scarlett Johansson (28-year old Kelly Foster, the lead zookeeper and long-time employee at Rosemoor Animal Park), Thomas Haden Church (Duncan Mee, the accountant older brother of Benjamin Mee), Colin Ford (Dylan Mee, the 14-year old son of Benjamin Mee, who is initially drawn to Lily and eventually develops feelings for her), Maggie Elizabeth Jones (Rosie Mee, the 7-year old daughter of Benjamin Mee, who is very curious about all of the animals in the zoo and thinks living at a zoo is a grand adventure), Angus MacFadyen (Peter MacCready, the carpenter of the zoo who has made many innovative enclosures for the zoo, and claims that his ideas have been "stolen" by Walter Ferris. Because of this, he has a huge and violent grudge against Walter), Elle Fanning (Lily Miska, the 13-year old home-schooled cousin of Kelly and worker at the zoo's restaurant who lives within the zoo. Although she is too young to legally work, she is paid under the table out of her cousin's salary. She likes Dylan, who is unaware, at first, but later gives up after Dylan doesn't listen to her and unintentionally hurts her feelings. After Dylan apologizes to her and tells her of his feelings for her, she forgives him and they resume their friendship), Patrick Fugit (Robin Jones), John Michael Higgins (Walter Ferris, a strict zoo inspector who earns the dislike of many people), Carla Gallo (Rhonda Blair, the secretary of the zoo), J.B. Smoove (Mr. Stevens, the Mee family's real estate agent), Stephanie Szostak (Katherine Mee, the deceased wife of Benjamin Mee), Desi Lydic (Shea Seger, a woman with an obvious crush on Benjamin who always brings him lasagna), Peter Riegert (Delbert McGinty, Benjamin's boss before he 'starts over'), Michael Panes (the principal), Kym Whitley (Home Depot clerk). Loc: California. 124 min. Released by FS Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Minna Franssila / Carina Laurila-Olin. 2K DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 14, Helsinki, 26 May 2012.

Technical specs from the IMDb: Laboratory: DeLuxe, Hollywood (CA), USA (prints), EFILM Digital Laboratories, Hollywood (CA), USA (digital intermediate) - Film length: 3.384 m - Film negative format: 35 mm (Kodak) - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Super 35 (3-perf) (source format) - Printed film format: 35 mm (spherical) (Fuji Eterna-CP 3523XD), D-Cinema - Aspect ratio: 1.85:1.

Feelgood family entertainment.

Story: after the death of the family's mother the father, the son, and the daughter move into a dilapidated zoo. Based on a true story, the location has been moved from England to California, and other changes have been made, as well.

I have liked Cameron Crowe since his debut as a screenwriter (Fast Times at Ridgemont High), and I am fond of his personal projects as a director (Almost Famous).

There are personally felt aspects in We Bought a Zoo, as well. The 14-year-old Dylan (Colin Ford) has artistic talent which he focuses on images of death and destruction. In their original hometown everything reminds Benjamin (Matt Damon) of his wife. There is a feeling of authenticity in the clumsiness of Dylan with Lily (Elle Fanning). There is a sense of honesty in the confrontation between father and son.

Catchphrases: "Sometimes you only need 20 seconds of insane courage", learned by Benjamin from his big brother Duncan (Thomas Haden Church). "Why not?" learned by Benjamin from his wife.

Scarlett Johansson is utterly lovely as Kelly, the zookeeper and the new love interest, but her role may be slightly underwritten.The big scene between Benjamin and Kelly is where Benjamin confesses how everything reminds him of his wife, even the expressions on his son's face. "I can not let go". Kelly: "I can" (she has had her share of disappointments, as well).

Cameron Crowe belongs to the sympathetic group of filmmakers (Jean Renoir, Leo McCarey, Satyajit Ray, Erkki Karu...) who are also songwriters. The composer of the original music is Jónsi, and there are also lovely vintage tracks on the soundtrack, such as Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl".

It is interesting to compare We Bought a Zoo with The Descendants, another story of a newly single father with two children.

We Bought a Zoo would be an even better movie if one would cut the schmalz and the flashbacks and shorten the footage on the dying Bengal tiger. It seems to be a rule in the movies that we never see the messy side of taking care of animals.

Shot on 35 mm photochemical film, the movie has gone through the digital intermediate process, and looks fine except the nature footage (but the zoo animals look good).
The playlist besides the Icelandic tracks:
"Don’t Come Around Here No More" – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
"Do It Clean" – Echo & The Bunnymen
"Airline To Heaven" – Wilco
"Don’t Be Shy" – Yusuf Islam
"Living With The Law" – Chris Whitley
"Last Medicine Dance" – Mike McCready
"Buckets Of Rain" – Bob Dylan
"No Soy Del Valle" – Quantic Presenta Flowering Inferno
"Like I Told You" – Acetone
"Ashley Collective" – Mike McCready
"For A Few Dollars More" – The Upsetters
"Hunger Strike" – Temple Of The Dog
"Mariachi El Bronx" – Mariachi El Bronx
"Haleakala Sunset" – CKsquared
"Cinnamon Girl" (Live) – Neil Young
"Holocene" – Bon Iver
"Throwing Arrows" – Mike McCready
"Work To Do" – The Isley Brothers
"All Your Love (I Miss Loving)" – Otis Rush
"I Think It’s Going To Rain Today" – Randy Newman

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