In 2000, director Cameron Crowe demonstrated his ability to put a new spin on teen rom-coms with ‘Say Anything’, capture the zeitgeist in ‘Singles’, be a critics’ darling with ‘Almost Famous’. and to achieve significant financial and critical recognition. all at once in “Jerry Maguire”. However, after the mixed response to “Vanilla Sky,” the writer-director entered a fallow period…and that’s when he directed “We Bought a Zoo.”
Stirring after a critical beating for “Elizabethtown,” Crowe didn’t make a movie for over six years. In fact, he wasn’t the one who originally developed “We Bought a Zoo”, although he did many rewrites of his predecessor Aline Brosh McKenna’s script when he arrived. He was the director who brought Matt Damon into the fold, successfully introducing the actor to a collection of music that Crowe said evoked the sensibility of the film he wanted to make.
Interestingly, while critics hit it with average to mixed reviews, audiences rewarded the film with more than twice its budget in ticket sales. Damon also performed above criticism as Benjamin Mee, the widowed father who, you guessed it, goes out and buys himself a zoo. Rotten Tomatoes’ review summary singles out the actor for anchoring the film around a “likeable central character,” which is about all you need from a movie about a guy who, well, buy a zoo.