Home > Movie review > I Bought a Zoo and the Descendants

I Bought a Zoo and the Descendants

“I have good news and bad.”

“Give me the good news.”

“I got you a part opposite Matt Damon / George Clooney. You play his wife.”

“That is fantastic. What are the bad news?”

“The wife is dead.”

I imagine that’s how two separate conversations might’ve gone, between agents and two actresses, Stephanie Szostak and Patricia Hastie, before being cast as the dead wives in “I bought a Zoo” and “The Descendants.”

What are the odds we would watch both films on consecutive nights?

The similarities end there. The Zoo apparently is based on a real story. I expected it would be a sappy, predictable, feel good movie with animal high jinks and Matt Damon falling in love with Scarlett Johansson. (It shouldn’t take much acting to fall for her) I was in the mood for something like that. I was disappointed. Not a terrible film but one I don’t think resolves anything. Not convincingly. Maybe its theme is: “You know sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage. Just literally 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery. And I promise you something great will come of it.”

I’m not too sure about that. Lots of stuff can happen in 20 seconds, much of it bad.

The Descendants, on the other hand, presents credible conflict and its main protagonist is a common man blessed with great luck, as far as inheritances go. But The Descendants does resolve the conflicts within its dysfunctional family in very convincing fashion. There are no ‘aha’ moments, only the closeness that comes from shared experience, the sort of bond that keeps families together. One interesting, albeit peculiar character, is a boy friend of the eldest daughter, who at her insistence accompanies them everywhere. He is a very awkward presence at awkward situations. But this seemingly hapless and clueless boy who is himself grieving for the loss of a parent, serves many and varied purposes, even though one wonders throughout what he is doing in this film.

I highly recommend The Descendants. A rare film.

Zoo, on the other hand, I’d pass on, unless one is interested in seeing yet another Fanning girl actor. There must be a Fanning child actor factory somewhere, and they are doing a very credible job. Patricia Hastie, by the way, did a good job as the comatose wife.

 

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