We Bought Product Placement, a movie by Cameron Crowe

I think I like Cameron Crowe's movies, generally, though the only one I can remember off the top of my head is Singles. I'll Google it in a second, hold on. But then again, I saw Singles in my twenties when the movie was total de ja vu for the dating scene, only with better clothing and hair (i.e. no one has better hair than Kyra Sedgwick's in any decade). I also get that movie confused with Reality Bites, and so can't really tell you for sure if Ethan Hawke was in that movie or Singles or both. Okay, I just checked IMDB and Crowe also did Almost Famous and Say Anything ("In Your Eyes," big boom box, John Cusack perpetually wearing a long raincoat, I've met guys who can quote all of Cusack's monologues in one breath). Last night, we rented We Bought a Zoo because when we have Luke, we watch kid friendly movies. This one was rated PG but they did use the s-word about three times and hell and damn. I know, because every time there was swearing, Luke gave us a look like, I can't believe you're exposing me to this filth. We reassured him that it's okay to hear the occasional curse word and wouldn't give him brain damage or turn him into a drug user.

 A couple of things about the movie--it has a very hip soundtrack and it's really about this man losing his wife to some unnamed illness--using the purchase of a run down zoo to process his grief, to grow closer to estranged teenage son, and to fall in love again with Scarlett Johansen, like who wouldn't?? It's also based on a true story of Benjamin Mee, a guy in Australia who really did such a thing, though they changed many of the details, such as moving the setting to California to avoid having the actors learn how to use British accents authentically. They also had the mother dead at the beginning of the film, though in real life, she was alive when they bought it and deteriorated as they were trying to sort it out. The other detail they changed is this brother relationship--in the movie, the brother (played by that guy from Wings), is skeptical at first, but eventually comes around, and in real life, the brothers don't speak. Overall, I don't love movies that have child actors as main characters because it's rare to find a kid who can actually act and doesn't always look like a kid acting. The little girl in this film was able to look adorable in moments, and pathetic in others as needed, but I never forgot she was a child.

The other thing that I wondered about was the title--was there no attempt to find something less literal? If not, I wouldn't deleted the four times in the movie where someone exclaimed, We bought a zoo! (including the little girl, who said it with three exclamation points, just like her acting coach told her).

Then finally, they mentioned Target at least four times in the movie, along with Home Depot, and Subway. I get that movies are expensive to make, but maybe sacrifice the money it costs to have three Bengal tigers and just have the one sad tiger and don't mention Target all the time, okay?

Luke gave the movie a thumbs down, but I think that was because it was somewhat sad--they were all upset about the mom dying, and he isn't into that kind of emotional complexity at this age and it was also somewhat slow and plodding--no real surprises. Oh, and there was kissing, and he's anti that. Dan liked the movie okay, and I didn't hate it--I for sure liked it better than that Steve Carrel Noah movie where he has to convince his family that they need to build an arc because the flood is coming. That was a stinker. This was one was okay, though I would feel better if Crowe gave some of the money he made with the film to Mee, whose still struggling to get the zoo on its feet.