The We Bought a Zoo Irresponsibility Index

In this weekend’s wildly reckless financial risk fantasy We Bought a Zoo, moneyed-but-totes-normal Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon), a recently widowed father of two, experiences a fit of Jerry Maguire insanity and moves his family into a zoo. Director Cameron Crowe and co-written by Aline Brosh McKenna (27 Dresses) would have you think this is a good idea, since (spoiler!) Mee’s selfish, shortsighted, and borderline negligent decisions result in an uplifting, golden-hued ending, not to mention the love of a certain crunchy-but-smokin’ hot lady zookeeper. But Movieline knows better. Study the litany of ill-advised risks and bad judgment calls Benjamin Mee makes for himself and his two young children. In these trying times, let his story not be a lesson.

*It should be noted that We Bought a Zoo is adapted from the nonfiction memoir of the real Benjamin Mee, a former newspaper columnist who may or may not have also made the stupid life choices listed below. Also: SPOILERS, OBVIOUSLY.


The Mildly Dumb:

  •  Not eating those lasagnas all the hot single moms at school made for you. Lasagna is delicious.
  •  Leaving daily lunch-making duties to a 7 year old.
  • Allowing an inattentive 14-year-old kid to close down the new shipment of exotic snakes.

The Negligibly Negligent:

  • Quitting a job in PRINT journalism for no good reason on a whim one day. I mean, REALLY ARE YOU CRAZY?
  • Personally executing the installation of costly renovation and maintenance of a zoo with no prior carpentry or animal husbandry experience or skills or knowledge... then being shocked with a 650-lb. bear escapes his enclosure.
  • Leaving two children alone for an entire day, without dinner and without leaving a note explaining that you’re off moping and figuring your shit out, only to come home after bedtime to find that someone else has graciously come in to feed and care for them. And without so much as a freaking thank you.

 The Delusionally Boneheaded:

  • Confronting said escaped bear by approaching to within mauling distance because you think you had a “moment.” HAVE YOU NOT SEEN GRIZZLY MAN??
  • Putting off the much-needed and medically recommended euthanasia of a dying tiger just to entertain your own self-serving crusade to “save” everything through sheer willpower, because you couldn't will your dead wife to overcome cancer.
  • Uprooting two helpless children who are mourning their dead mother away from all the friends they know in the world because you want to show life that you won't take life's guff anymore.

 The Really, Really Stupid:

  • Spending millions… and then millions more… buying/fixing up run down zoo instead of, you know, a house.
  •  … and then dropping hundreds of thousands more into the flailing dream with last-ditch angel money your dead wife miraculously left you. What's that children? You wanted to go to college one day?
  • Directing hordes of zoo patrons, some elderly and probably infirm, to scale the massive trunk of a downed tree to enter the park on opening day. Can you say lawsuit?


Additional assorted filmmaking irresponsibility on the parts of Crowe and McKenna:

  • Including just two, insufferably colorful, characters of color (a zany real estate agent and a sassy Home Depot employee) on the periphery of all these damned white people’s problems. This, despite having the opportunity to diversify more accurately by changing the setting from England to Southern California, not to mention taking all manner of other creative liberties.
  • Writing two of the thinnest female characters of the year, in Scarlett Johansson's tomboy zookeeper with a Matt Damon crush and Elle Fanning as her niece, both of whom exist purely to reflect and emotionally rejuvenate the men of We Bought a Zoo. Feel for poor ScarJo as she sits thanklessly with Damon on the porch with the lone task of appearing to be interested in what he’s saying!
  •  Making characters say, and repeat, two of the most cloying lines of the season: “We bought a zooOOooOOOO!” and the insufferably self-serving “Why?” “Why NOT?!”

Why, indeed.


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  • Kate says:

    This is why I love Jen Yamato. :)

  • Ally says:

    Maybe Benjamin was a little irresponsible, however I firmly believe you should never pass judgement on those who are grieving.

  • jimmyC says:

    and are you inferring this hollywood dream piece has some plot holes? Well I was lucky enough to see Charlie Sheens 90's epic 'navy seals' on tv last night and I was amazed that someone was brave enough to release it. I am not just talking about ham acting but on so many points this highly trained seal team does the dumbest of things .. it should have been part of the police academy franchise.

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