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We Bought a Zoo Review Critics


Dave White Profile

Try not to buy a ticket. Read full review


Grae Drake Profile

Sentimental Journey Read full review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 3.0

    out of 100

    Mixed or average reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 60

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    A movie you want to like, and a movie you can enjoy if you cut its slackness some slack.

    Read Full Review

  • 63

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    We Bought a Zoo doesn't seem to know what kind of animal it is. Is it a family melodrama, a love story, a wacky comedy, a drama about coping with grief, a feel-good film about following your dreams, or, as ads seem to indicate, a gift-wrapped animal adventure? Not surprisingly, this menagerie of genres doesn't mesh.

    Read Full Review

  • 70

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter

    Arguably the director's least typical film, it doesn't dodge the potholes of earnest sentimentality and at times overplays the whimsy. But the uplifting tale has heart, humanity and a warmly empathetic central performance from Matt Damon.

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  • 75

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    The movie is like Doctor Dolittle remade as a therapeutic sudser. By the end, it got to me.

    Read Full Review

  • See all We Bought a Zoo reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 12+

Family film tackles grief with humor and deep empathy.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that director Cameron Crowe's drama inspired by real-life events revolves around a family dealing with the loss of a beloved mother. As such, some moments of reminiscing and discussion about her death may be too sad/intense for younger kids. There's also quite a bit of swearing for a PG-rated movie (including "s--t"), some social drinking and flirting, creepy images (in drawings by an unhappy teenage boy), and the implication that the Easter Bunny isn't real. Nevertheless, We Bought a Zoo (which stars Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson) is a heartfelt and inspiring film about how a family pulls through difficulty and how being with animals -- and those who care for them -- can help heal the soul.

  • Families can talk about We Bought a Zoo's messages. What is it saying about loss? About family? Are the characters realistic and relatable? How do you think you'd cope in similar circumstances?
  • Parents, talk to your kids about loss and how it can impact a person in many ways. Are there many different ways to grieve? Why?

The good stuff
  • message true1

    Messages: The film is chock full of positivity. Mee and his team at the zoo all work together for a common good. Open communication, empathy, and effort make the new venture work and help heal the family.

  • rolemodels true1

    Role models: Mee is genuinely interested in giving his kids a new adventure so that they, and he, can find joy again after his wife's death. He makes mistakes, but through it all, he keeps the lines of communication open with his kids, especially his 14-year-old, who starts out as rebellious and surly (he steals, kicks snakes, yells and swears at his dad, etc. -- i.e. not someone to emulate) but improves. Even Mee's brother, who doesn't always see things his way, winds up supportive. Kelly is a strong woman who's confident about her zookeeping skills and has genuine affinity for the animals.

What to watch for
  • violence false2

    Violence: Some moments may seem dangerous, especially to young viewers. Some of the teenage son's dark, violent drawings are shown; including one of a decapitated head with blood squiring from the neck. The son also kicks a snake as if it were a soccer ball. Some threats ("I'm going to kill him" and someone saying they'd feed their in-laws to tigers -- said as a joke) and a humorous reference to using a tranquilizer gun on a human. In addition to the tranq guns, one apparently real gun is seen.

  • sex false0

    Sex: Some flirtation between two teens and two adults; a kiss. Also some mild innuendo related to both humans and animals. A maternity portrait shows a woman topless -- nothing sensitive is shown, and it's not sexual, but her shirt is off.

  • language false2

    Language: Language includes "s--t," "damn," "a--hole," "d--k," "hell," "oh my God" (as an exclamation), and more. Some of the swearing is done by kids.

  • consumerism false2

    Consumerism: Labels/brands seen include Apple, Stella Artois, Budweiser, Rolling Rock, GMC, Ford, Subway, Paxil, Target, and Home Depot.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false2

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: A few scenes of social drinking among adults and references to drinking; many photos of the passed-away wife include drinks. Mentions of animals' medications and a joke about how a tiger will get a "major buzz" from them.