We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin MeeMy work in the office is to be in front of the computer for almost the whole day. I’m an information technology-systems analyst guy assigned on North American projects so I rarely talk to anybody except during lunch time. Due to this, I can don a headset and listen to a radio station. 8 hours a day.
Since early this January, my favorite afternoon station, RJ 100.30 has been airing the teaser for the movie adaptation of this memoir We Bought a Zoo with one line that goes something like: ”You don’t need a lot of knowledge to run a zoo. What you need is a lot of heart.” The voice sounds sincere and the irony (who would thought of buying a zoo and declare it as if what you bought was just a new set of plasma TV?) is just intriguing. Then one evening, I saw a poster on top of a waiting shed along EDSA and when I saw Scarlett Johansson (my well-kept secret crush) and Matt Damon (who to my disappointment lost the lead role in the latest The Bourne movie that is currently shooting here in Manila), I said whoa this seems to be a fun movie. Then the following day, I saw a copy of this book at NBS with exactly the same people on the poster along EDSA, so I bought it right away forgetting my new year’s resolution of not buying books, especially brand new books because they are expensive and they derail my monthly budget. But anyway, I resolved that I would not see the movie anyway so the cost of the book approximates the savings from not seeing the movie with my family.
I liked the book particularly that fact that this was based on a true story. It was hard for me to bring my own experiences that would have made this a memorable read. My childhood experiences in zoos were not that really beautiful. The Manila Zoo was the first zoo I visited, once when I was a small boy and I was so young I could not remember anything about it. All I remember now was the stinking smell and the big scary elephant. I also remember that I wanted to eat another ice cream but my mother would not allow me to have another cone. My wife had a somewhat strange memory about her visit: she fell on the pavement and all she remembered when I asked her was that she was crying endlessly because of the pain. When my daughter was young, we bought her to the same zoo, Malabon Zoo and the ones in Tagaytay. She also had the chance to visit Ocean Park (in Hongkong), Singapore Zoo and Zoobic (in Olongapo City) and I know she enjoyed those. It’s always nice to give somethings to your children especially those that you were not able to have when you were young, right?
There is nothing really wrong about the writing. Mee tried to capture everything that happened in an organized manner. Not sure if he exerted effort to make the telling interesting but I just did not feel anything while reading. Okay, he bought the zoo for his mother as he would like her to have something to excite her now becoming boring twilight years. Okay, he was losing his wife, Katherine, to cancer and he probably thought that this would be a diversion of his grief. Okay, his two kids were all excited to own the 200 animals in the zoo and their father seemed like a God-sent hero to save those animals. Sure Mee has all the heart, and I salute him. It’s just that the writing is a bit boring because it is so plain and predictable. There are heartwarming scenes but from page 1, despite all the hurdles thrown by Mee in the air for me to believe otherwise, I knew that the ending would be happy: that they would succeed in running the zoo.
If you are interested on animals, however, I still recommend this book especially if you are planning to buy your own zoo. Quite informative, I would say.
That radio teaser is still being played. I just heard it while typing this review. After reading this book though, I don’t have any interest to see the movie.
We Bought a Zoo 2011 Movie - Matt Damon & Scarlett Johansson
The real story of the family who bought a zoo
We Bought a Zoo is a American family comedy-drama film loosely based on the memoir of the same name by Benjamin Mee. It was written and directed by Cameron Crowe and stars Matt Damon as widowed father Benjamin Mee, who purchases a dilapidated zoo with his family and takes on the challenge of preparing the zoo for its reopening to the public. Dartmoor Zoological Park originally Dartmoor Wildlife Park , on which the film is based, is a acre zoological garden located near the village of Sparkwell , Devon , England. Benjamin Mee is still grieving the loss of his wife Katherine and dealing with the expulsion of his year-old son, Dylan, from school, and decides to make a fresh start by buying a new house. He tours many houses with his 7-year-old daughter, Rosie, and his realtor, Mr.
Six years ago British journalist Benjamin Mee was living in the countryside of France with his wife, Katherine and two children, Milo and Ella. That was until he stumbled upon a broken-down zoo and a motley crew of wild animals who were in desperate need of a saviour. With no zoological experience and no support from within the industry it took a lot of persistence and failed attempts to purchase the zoo before Mee finally managed to convince the cantankerous owner that he was the right man for the job. But shortly after moving in to their strange new home his wife, who was in remission from cancer, was told her brain tumour had returned. While Mee was overwhelmed with grief he is adamant that through it all he never second guessed his decision to take on the zoo. I never thought that we should stop. Even in those darkest moments when Katherine was ill and when she died.
It came into being in , when Benjamin Mee and his family came across Dartmoor Wildlife Park locally known as Sparkwell Wildlife Park : a privately owned, dilapidated exotic animal collection with a poor reputation and in terrible financial difficulty. Led by Benjamin, the family gathered all their resources, bought the zoo, saved the animals, and then began the year-long struggle to get the zoo ready to re-open which it finally did in July with new ideology, and under the new name of Dartmoor Zoological Park. Disastrously this tumour proved terminal, and after a 6 month struggle, Katherine died leaving Benjamin to pick up the pieces with his two young children, as well as keeping the fight going to get the zoo open. But they did it. The family survived, and the zoo regained its licence: a massive achievement. Benjamin is regularly invited to talk to organisations to inspire their people to never give up, no matter what life throws at you.
Thankfully, it has filmmaker Cameron Crowe heading the rescue mission. In lesser hands, a film so unashamed of its sentiment, so affectionate about its characters, so uplifting in its message would have landed in the maw of mushy that so often devours films like these. Instead we have an intelligent family film, a rarity, and while not quite Crowe at his absolute best, it carries his humanistic imprint and benefits from a strong acting ensemble that keep emotions in check. When looking for a new start for 7-year-old Rosie Maggie Elizabeth Jones and his boundary-testing, button-pushing teenager Dylan Colin Ford , he stumbles across a crumbling country house that comes with a zoo, broken down in ways that echo his own fractured life. After a brief setup, the film dives right into the disastrous state of things at the zoo. Bringing things up to standard seems impossible; so is giving up.
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