The film is loosely based on the story of Benjamin Mee and his book chronicling the purchase and saving of a zoo. Damon plays Mee, a widower looking to give his son, Dylan (Colin Ford), and daughter, Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones), a new start. He settles on a charming house sitting on 18 acres of land inhabited by lions, tigers, lemurs, a grizzly bear and much more.
The zoo comes with a staff, populated by the likes of Kelly (Scarlett Johansson), left in charge of the zoo and its animals after it was closed to the public. There’s also the goofy Lily (Elle Fanning), Kelly’s niece being home-schooled at the zoo and working in the small restaurant. The woman and the girl provide significant chances for Benjamin and Dylan to shake out of their funks.
Crowe pours it on thick with the emotional stuff, sometimes with success. Damon gets to show his comic and emotional range throughout the pic. His moment reminiscing about his wife while viewing pictures on his laptop is exceptionally moving. And the film’s closing scene is actually one of the finer sequences Crowe has ever put to film.