Five things I usually despise:
1. Inspirational “based on a true story” movies
2. Inspirational animal movies
3. Inspirational single/widowed dad movies
4. When movie audiences audibly go “awwww”
5. Soundtracks that involve a song sung by a man in a high-pitched, incomprehensible voice
Five things that will get me in the door anyway:
1. Patrick Fugit
2. Patrick Fugit
3. Patrick Fugit
4. Patrick Fugit
5. Cameron Crowe directing Patrick Fugit
This may be the most overtly fangirl movie review I’ve put up in a while, but nobody (who isn’t Fran Kranz, Summer Glau, or Christina Hendricks) can uniformly melt me into a puddle of fangirl want like Patrick Fugit. Eight years and counting. My crush on him has lasted longer than… most real life relationships I know that aren’t belonging to parents.
Yes, I understand that he had… not that much screen time. I understand that We Bought a Zoo was a movie about Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson and Matt Damon’s children. But it’s been approximately five years (since Wristcutters) since I actually got to see my Patrick on a big screen, and I couldn’t resist. Even though the first time I saw the trailer to this movie, and didn’t see Patrick in it, I shot myself in the head with a fingergun. Inspirational anything movies make me want to crawl into a hole and never emerge, a lot of times.
But. I’m not sure if it’s because I was in a happy place, or because it was actually sweet, or because there are times when I can become a total sap for a minute before reverting to my usual morbid self, I actually did think it was a nice movie. “Nice” isn’t a very apt descriptor, but it’s an appropriate one, I think.
The audience in my theater did audibly go “awwww” multiple times. Usually at Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones), and I’ll admit that was well-founded. Even if it’s a plot device that’s getting tired, I can’t deny that the adorable little girl’s presence is a guaranteed way to make people smile. And this particular little girl was especially adorable.
Also pretty adorable was Lily (Elle Fanning). In a different way, but damned if she’s not an endearing adolescent. She’s got one of those infectious smiles, and she wasn’t acting too young or too old, so that’s nice. Even if sometimes I was rolling my eyes (the “I love you” scene between her and Dylan [Colin Ford], for example, because really) she didn’t seem like a “Hollywood” adolescent. She seemed like someone who’s actually that age.
And Matt Damon was fine. Like usual, I don’t have anything particular to say about his performance. He got done what he needed to. The hallucinations of dead wife sequences were a little much, and the dancing in the kitchen one made me think about The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood for some reason, but it was okay in the end. Thomas Haden Church was good, too. He’s good at being That Other Guy There Talking To The Main Character.
Scarlett Johansson… is a serviceable actress who does what she needs to, and damn if she’s not cute. And I really liked that they only kissed the once and acknowledged that it wasn’t going to be a relationship right away because of it. That felt like a real people thing to do.
My Patrick… well, for one I’m convinced that his character, Robin, was totally dating that girl with the flapper haircut who also worked at the zoo, or at least they flirted. I loved his one little silly interaction with Johansson’s Kelly; that it was just banter, plain and simple, nothing weird about it. If the inspector (who was a d-bag, and I hated him) had been a woman, and had been eyeing him up, she would have bantered with him in the same way. He was so capable and helpful and friendly and, like always with him, I felt like he knew more about everyone than they did about themselves. (He’s really good at that.)
Basically. It was cute, it was sentimental, it was based on a true story (and I heard someone behind me go “ooh, field trip!” in all seriousness, and I just shook my head, because cute sentimental movies draw in an audience that I don’t wanna watch movies with, I like when it’s late enough that we’re the only ones in the theatre, or close to, and we don’t have to listen to a ton of other reactions from people, but hey), and despite this I didn’t hate it. It was pretty good. Which is probably to do with Cameron Crowe, who is commendable always. (Except for Vanilla Sky. But let’s not get into my Vanilla Sky problems.)
–your fangirl heroine.