Every so often I get to see a movie that manages to defy logic, even sometimes its own internal logic, but which is so good-natured that it manages to get by nonetheless. I actually regularly feel that way about Cameron Crowe films, and his latest, We Bought a Zoo, is no different.
Sort of based on a true story, We Bought a Zoo stars Matt Damon as a recently widowed father, Benjamin Mee. When nothing else is working in Benjamin's life, he picks up his two kids and buys an old rundown zoo in the middle of nowhere. Predictably, he faces challenges getting the place up and running once more as well as with helping his son, Dylan (Colin Ford), get past the recent death of Dylan's mother. Benjamin's other child, a daughter named Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones), is on a far more even keel than either her father or brother and really exists just so that Damon can have cute to interact with.
As for the zoo workers' side of things, they're led by Kelly Foster (Scarlett Johansson), who seems to mainly be there so Damon can have someone attractive to interact with. There isn't a moment from the first time Kelly appears in the film that the audience doesn't know that she and Mee will get together by the end. Crowe and company, however, wait so long to bring them together that you keep knowing that there is more to the film even when it looks like things are winding down.
Acknowledging these problems however, doesn't really tell the full story of the film. I have certainly complained about films in the past where the end (and virtually every scene/complication) are obvious from the outset, and this is one of those films, but it succeeds anyway. Why? Probably because Damon, Johansson, and everyone else are so earnest and so endearing that they make it work. There really is little other way to put it – Damon, Johansson, and Jones are just great to watch together on screen.