We Bought a Zoo

Rated 3.0

A young widower (Matt Damon) impulsively moves his kids (Colin Ford, Maggie Elizabeth Jones) to a broken-down wild animal park, where he enlists the demoralized staff (led by Scarlett Johansson) and his own skeptical brother (Thomas Haden Church) to help reopen the place. Director Cameron Crowe and his co-writer Aline Brosh McKenna go full-bore Hollywood on Benjamin Mee’s memoir, transplanting it from England to Southern California, fictionalizing it, and Americanizing it to within an inch of its life. Crowe gamely tries to gin up some suspense, but the ending is never really in doubt, and the movie is too slick and cute by half (7-year-old Jones’ pearls of toddler wisdom get to be a bit much). Still, with cool animals, cute kids, Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, how can it miss? Resistance is futile. J.L.