Last week, I accompanied my seven year-old son and his classmates on a trip to London Zoo.
At one point, he looked at me and said: ‘Dad, I wish we could buy a zoo.’
Which, by an astonishing coincidence is (almost) the name of a hit new movie, based on a true story and starring Matt Damon, being released in the UK this week.
I haven’t seen it, but I know a man who has, so I’ve asked him to share his thoughts on WE BOUGHT A ZOO.
GUEST REVIEW By Alan Greenhalgh
Benjamin Mee is a writer who specialised in adventure, killer bees, dangerous dictators and hurricanes. So being an unemployed, single dad should be cinch, right?
Cue scenes of hectic family life – a truculent son, Dylan, who sketches gory, decapitated heads, a sweet but wise-cracking seven-year-old daughter, Rosie who tells her dad ‘You’re handsomer than the other dads. Lots of them don’t have hair, so that’s good.’ Plus he’s dealing with a tragic loss.
But being ‘handsomer’ and a widower only gets him a fridge full of home-made sympathy lasagne and the unwanted libidinous attention of the school gate mums. His Editor’s not much interested in his latest story about the end of the world and how laptops and apps aren’t going to save us as we go down in the ‘iPocalypse’. Even his brother, Duncan, says ‘Look, you gotta let a little sunlight in. Okay?’
Benjamin Mee needs to make a change. A big change. He needs to take his own advice that ‘all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and something great will come out of it.’
So he sets out house-hunting for a back yard, and rolling hills. Of course, it’s very hard to find rolling hills Los Angeles. The last on the property list is the ‘unique’ Rosemoor which, as the real estate guy says, has some ‘challenges.’ How’s that for an understatement?
It’s a zoo. A broken-down zoo and, by State law, whoever comes on board has got to care for and maintain the endangered animals – all 47 species of them. It’s February and it’s closed for business and as summer is the money-making season, Benjamin has until July to get the place back on its feet. And his family, his love-life and the animals – you get the picture.
The film takes a while to get going but once it does it wrings fear, tears and laughter from you. There are heart-stopping adventures with a depressed six-hundred and fifty-pound North American Grizzly bear called Buster who is ‘missin’ his meds’ and a scary, grouchy lion called Solomon. You’ll get the creeps with a box of snakes and even learn a bit of zoology with Spar, the tiger, whose front two inch canines can detect the pulse in your aorta.
WE BOUGHT A ZOO is based on British journalist Benjamin Mee and his family’s inspirational story and adventure of buying and running a zoo in Devon. Benjamin, along with his brother Duncan, two young children Milo and Ella, and mother Amelia have owned and run Dartmoor Zoological Park in Devon since 2006.
Matt Damon plays the fattened-up dad who can’t seem to get things right. The kids are well-acted and touching. It’s funny, too with Scarlett Johansson playing Kelly Foster, the 28-year-old quirky zoo-keeper who never goes out: ‘I’m here every day. My girlfriends, they text me, they’re out living their lives meeting guys named Brett, and I’m here shovelling shit. Bear shit! I’m pathetic!’
It’s a classic fish out of water story, there’s a great soundtrack with music by Icelandic musician and singer Jonsi (Sigur Ros) and you get to go backstage at a zoo.
I really enjoyed it. And after seeing this who wouldn’t want to throw things up in the air? I don’t know if I’d be up for running a zoo but I’d like to take on an airfield. And do skydiving. So that might make the next film, hey?
For those of you with an adventurous disposition there’s a great prize to give away to one lucky winner for the best comment on this sponsored post.
Tell us what’s your big, fun, life-changing dream? If you could throw everything in the air and start again what would you do? The best comment will win the following…
The prize is a Detox Package at Dove Spa (23 UK Locations) including a Full Body Scrub, Detox Wrap, Brightening Mini Facial and a £30 Travel Allowance.
There you can dream pleasantly about the tigers and lions, or about Scarlett.
UK Release Date 16th March 2012
• This is a sponsored post. I have donated the fee to my son’s school Parents’ Association so his schoolmates can also enjoy trips to the zoo.