As if raising kids wasn't tough enough.
Benjamin Mee (Damon) is a Los Angeles newspaper columnist and adventure writer who, as a single father, faces the challenges of raising his two young children. Hoping that a fresh start and a new life will restore their family spirit, Mee quits his job and buys an old rural house outside the city with a unique bonus feature: a zoo named the Rosemoor Animal Park, where dozens of animals reside under the care of head zookeeper Kelly Foster (Johansson) and her dedicated team. With no experience, limited time and a shoestring budget, Mee sets out with the support of his family and the local community to reopen the zoo. Now, Benjamin is no longer reporting an adventure story; he’s living it in his own backyard.
The one thing that Cameron Crowe does really well in all his films (even his crappy ones) is he focuses on the human element. He does his best to make sure that the audience understands each and every character, even when they're not of significance to the main story. The main focus of this film isn't the zoo, rather it's Benjamin Mee's family. He wants people to understand that the family is broken and stalling in their current place due to the untimely death of Katherine Mee (wife, mother). The movie starts with Benjamin's son being expelled from school. Damon's Benjamin understands that his kids need him and that a change in their life is necessary for the family to survive. It's an easy set up and easy solution, and it's very human. The one thing most people do when they're faced with tragedy is to change something in their life. Sometimes the change is immediate, and sometimes it's gradual. And sometimes it's an individual change that is needed.
Regardless, something has to be adjusted to move forward.
The Mee family uproots themselves, Benjamin quits his job and does something drastic; they find a nice home with a zoo attached to it. If you have seen an 80s film, you understand that there had to be an adjustment period for the Mee family to get comfortable with the zoo and then finally 'get it'. Outside of a musical montage laying this out, Crowe takes a more serious, 'real' approach to the situation. He builds Benjamin Mee's good intentions with the zoo, and possibly getting his family out of a funk, and turns the intentions back on Mee. Instead of bringing his family together to help rebuild this wonderful zoo, he shows what Mee will have to deal with getting his kids back on track. He'll have to bring his son back from the gloomy cloud of his mother's death that swept him away. He'll have to keep his young daughter from detouring from her innocent view on life. He'll have to put more real effort into correcting his family's issues before he can correct his zoo's issues. It goes against the 80s movie theme that 'suddenly everyone is happy when they come together' and replaces it with 'you need to work harder on making sure you family is okay, and that you're okay'.
This movie is far more important than the construction of a zoo. It's the rebuilding of a man's life and that of his family's. It's a movie about a man trying to keep his family together and trying every which way to get through a terrible tragedy that has occurred in their lives.
Simply put, it's a human piece and a damn good one at that.
As for the Blu-ray portion of the film, you get a lot nice, sharp colors that tend to fall towards the bland side of things once in a while. I'm not sure how this movie was shot, but the majority of sunny days in the Zoo tend to fall into a grainy, bland coloring palette, which is a shame. When the sky is blue and everything appears to be less 'woody' then you get some very crisp, clean colors that make you happy you bought a Blu-ray player. Still, it's far better than some releases as of recently.
The audio comes to you in 5.1 DTS-HD, with a nice soundtrack included and you also get the movie in a widescreen 1.85:1 ratio.
Finally, as for features, here's what you're looking at:
● Deleted & Extended Scenes
○ Elevator Empathy
○ A Gift From Ronnie
○ Life is Elemental
○ Thank You, Rhonda
○ Rosie Names Her Peacocks
○ Quick Learner
○ Just Can’t Get a Handle On It
○ So Much Bloodshed
○ Buster is Loose
○ Utterly Free / Nobody Died
○ I Make My Own Hours
○ The Stuff is Alive
○ We’re Living The Story
○ Disaffected Youth
○ It’s Their Zoo, Too
○ Goodnight Big Mac
○ Such a Cliché
○ Sorry About the Rain
○ Benjamin’s Big Speech
○ Opening Day
● Gag Reel
● “The Real Mee”
● “We Shot a Zoo”
● “Their Happy is Too Loud”
● Audio Commentary with Director Cameron Crowe, Star J.B. Smoove and Editor Mark Livolsi
This is a lot of features for this film, though most are deleted/extended scenes. The gag reel is priceless and the 'We Shot a Zoo' featurette is quite interesting. The real gold here is the commentary from director Cameron Crowe, J.B. Smoove and editor Mark Livolsi. Really solid, informative commentary on every step of the film.