If a film should be judged on whether those making it achieved what they intended, then this is a mild success: an enjoyable, sentimental family dramedy, well within Cameron Crowe's comfort zone. Arguably it's therefore a better film than both Almost Famous and Singles, which both aimed sky high and stalled. Matt Damon's casting seems like a favour owed, while top acting honours go to Colin Ford's Dylan (the son).
Here's an inspiring true story, presented in just the right tone. Though it had to have a magical feel to it, without deviating from it's real inspiration. Inspired by a true story of a family who did buy a zoo. How extraordinary! Entertaining and certainly amusing. It's a delightful film, a wonderful story. It's a toast to Benjamin Mee and his family!
Not quite the return to form one would have hoped for after the misguided 'Elizabethtown' but not the trainwreck some have made it out to be either. Somehow within the emotional manipulation and schmaltz the picture still works. Great song score by Jonsi (Sigur Rus) with well placed choices from Cameron's record collection as always. Damon rises high above the material and young Maggie Elizabeth Jones a major find.
Title and treacly premise aside, Cameron Crowe does deserve credit as one of the best modern auteurs of sentimentality. This is not meant as an insult—far from it—but to say that he's one of the few mainstream directors who can present the warm, fuzzy, and optimistic view of human relations (between family, friends, and lovers) and have it feel sincere, convincing, and genuinely effective.
It always happens with Crowe: He's got a decent script, a good cast, a nice record collection when he suddenly feels a need to sweeten the dish. And so he steps up to the plate, sugar bowl in hand, and just as he's about to sprinkle in a pinch of sugar, he drops the whole fucking sugar bowl into the dish! (Sweet 'n' Sweet).