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Film / We Bought a Zoo

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A 2011 Cameron Crowe movie in which Matt Damon buys a zoo. Loosely based on the memoir of Benjamin Mee, a widower and his two kids buy 18 acres of property that used to be a fully functioning zoo. He inspires the remaining staff of the zoo, as well as his kids, to put it back together to have it approved by an inspector so it can once again attract customers. Tear Jerker family moments and funny animal hijinks ensue.


  • Animal Reaction Shot: A couple with a staff member's capuchin.
  • Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: The film has three uses of "shit", two uses of "asshole" and one use of "dick" (the last of which is said by a 7-year-old) to try and bump the rating up to PG-13. However, it didn't work, and the film got a PG rating instead.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Dylan calls out his dad for ignoring his emotional needs after his mom's death by not even asking how he's doing. Though Dylan does admit his father did the best job he could once the heat of the moment is over.
  • Cheerful Child / Daddy's Girl: Rosie.
  • Continuity Snarl: After seeing the zoo for the first time, Benjamin says that it is February. The calendar in the beginning looks like it could be the February 2011 calendar. House listings even have the date January 3, 2011, and a bank statement ends with the date November 2010. So it should be 2011, right? But then a sign says that Spar, who dies by the end, died in 2010. A weather reporter even says that it is July 6, 2010. To make matters worse, the June and July calendars shown do not make sense unless it is 2007, the year in which the story on which this is based really took place.
  • Cultural Translation: The real Benjamin Mee and his family are British, and the real Zoo is in Dartmoor, Devon, in the UK, but he was on board with most of the film.
  • Defrosting Ice King: Dylan.
  • Escaped Animal Rampage: Almost inevitable in a zoo-related movie. A bear escapes its enclosure and wanders around in the city until the keepers capture it and bring it back to the zoo. It's relatively docile and doesn't do much of a rampage, though.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It's about a family that does indeed buy a zoo. Much fun was had over the matter-of-fact title when it was released.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Lily.
  • Hilarity in Zoos: Hell, it's Hilarity In Zoos: The Movie.
  • The Inspector Is Coming: The zoo is looking at an inspection a week before opening day; the guy pops in early for a surprise inspection as well.
  • Meaningful Echo: "Why not?"
  • Mighty Roar: A bear does this right in Benjamin's face.
  • Missing Mom: The story begins six months after Katherine Mee's death. In real life, the zoo was actually bought before her death and she died during the renovations, but the studio thought this was too sad and the real Benjamin Mee has said that the portrayal of grief is still accurate to what he went through.
  • Product Placement: The characters seem to have a strange fascination with Home Depot and Target.
  • Single Tear: Benjamin does this during a flashback about his wife.
  • Something Else Also Rises: The way the zoo inspector deploys his tape measure is rather suggestive.
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Lily and Dylan.
  • Title Drop: Rosie does this three times.
    • So does Benjamin at the end.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Peter Macready, hilariously played by an actual Glaswegian Angus Macfadyen.
    You don't want me! I am full of scotch and bitterness and impure thoughts!
  • We Named the Monkey "Jack": The second variation — Dylan Mee is named after a dog.