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Cinema also released 15/3/12


GLOSSY Hollywood fiction slathers on the emotional syrup in We Bought A Zoo, a shamelessly sentimental tale of a father’s struggle to revitalise an ailing animal sanctuary in the aftermath of his wife’s death.

Based on the inspirational memoir by Benjamin Mee, the British newspaper columnist who took charge of Dartmoor Zoological Park in 2007, Cameron Crowe’s film doesn’t miss a single opportunity to shed crocodile tears.

Each moment of internal anguish is underscored by a soundtrack of soft rock and a haunting original score composed by Jonsi Birgisson from the Icelandic band Sigur Ros.

Screenwriters Crowe and Aline Brosh McKenna transplant the action from picturesque south Devon to the fictitious Rosemoor Wildlife Park in California, where mourning, guilt and father-son bonding play out against the backdrop of an inspection of the zoo’s facilities.

Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) is trying to be strong for his teenage son Dylan (Colin Ford) and precocious young daughter Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) following the death of his wife Katharine (Stephanie Szostak).

“Do me a favour – attempt to start over,” advises Benjamin’s accountant brother Duncan (Thomas Haden Church).

So Benjamin moves his family into a ramshackle house that comes with a fully functioning zoo, complete with animals and ballsy head keeper Kelly Foster (Scarlett Johansson).

Benjamin sinks all of his money into the zoo, hoping to restore the facility to its former glory in time for an inspection by the notoriously pernickety Walter Ferris (John Michael Higgins).

Duncan is horrified but Benjamin refuses to be dissuaded, inspiring alcohol-swigging handyman MacCready (Angus Macfadyen), animal handler Robin (Patrick Fugit) and Kelly’s teenage cousin Lily (Elle Fanning) to buy into his impossible dream.

We Bought A Zoo is Crowe at his most mawkish and cliched.

Children stare mournfully into the camera; parents salve wounds with trite platitudes, a father stumbles upon a cash windfall in the nick of time and an ageing tiger prepares to make a final journey to the great jungle in the sky.

The film’s trump card is Damon, who delivers a moving and honest performance as the family man haunted by memories of the past.



CRIME rarely pays for veteran thieves who are lured out of retirement by the tantalising promise of a final payday.

The central character in Contraband ignores all of the warning signs to mastermind a daring money smuggling operation in order to save his reckless brother-in-law from an early grave.

Mark Wahlberg is a brooding and muscular central presence, greeting each ridiculous twist in Aaron Guzikowski’s script with bewilderment.

Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) and friend Sebastian Abney (Ben Foster) were ‘the Lennon and McCartney of smuggling’ but both men have gone straight.

Chris now works on the right side of the law, installing security alarms to provide a steady income for his wife Kate (Kate Beckinsale) and children.

Trouble looms large when Kate’s baby brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) runs drugs for gun-toting mad man Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi) and dumps the narcotics when US customs unexpectedly storms the cargo ship.

“I’m going to take care of it,” Chris assures his wife, reluctantly agreeing to smuggle millions of dollars of fake bills from Panama to pay off Andy’s debt with the help of old pals Danny Raymer (Lukas Haas) and Igor (Olafur Darri Olafsson) aboard a ship commandeered by Captain Camp (JK Simmons).

Contraband is an assured reworking of the 2008 Icelandic film Reykjavik-Rotterdam starring Baltasar Kormakur, who sits in the director’s chair for this slick, high-octane remake.

Wahlberg’s lack of emotional depth in front of camera doesn’t prove fatal since he spends most of the film clambering around the ship or dodging bullets.

Beckinsale is wasted in a thankless supporting role, while Ribisi chews the scenery as the loose cannon.