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December 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo seems to have divided critics down the middle. None of them have particular praise for it, but then again none are slamming it either. Linda Barnard in the Toronto Star describes it as “an average movie that’s clearly been crafted to bring holiday families together over the popcorn machine.” It’s all “pap, but easygoing pap with a cast you can live with for a couple of hours,” comments Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune. The Boston Globe‘s Ty Burr presents an entire laundry list of complaints about the film, then crumples it up with the remark, “Here’s the thing, though: We Bought a Zoo still won me over, and it may do the same for you. Crowe’s greatest gift as a filmmaker — it’s practically unique nowadays — is that he likes people.” Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times also goes easy on the director. “Cameron Crowe has made wonderful films,” he writes, “but here the pieces go together too easily, the plot is too inevitable, and we feel little real energy between the players. It’s pitched at a lower level of ambition.” On the other hand, Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times finds much to like about the film. She comments: “In lesser hands, a film so unashamed of its sentiment, so affectionate about its characters, so uplifting in its message would have landed in the maw of mushy that so often devours films like these. Instead we have an intelligent family film, a rarity, and while not quite Crowe at his absolute best, it carries his humanistic imprint.” And Manohla Dargis in the New York Times concludes that the “creaks groans and clichés of the screenplay” are more than offset “by the attractiveness of the performers, those with two legs and more.” She concludes that while some may not buy Crowe’s happy endings, “it’s a seductive ideal when all of God’s creatures, great and small, buxom and blond, exist in such harmony.”