Metascore
58

Mixed or average reviews - based on 40 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 20 out of 40
  2. Negative: 3 out of 40

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Critic Reviews

  1. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Dec 21, 2011
    80
    Damon can elevate just about anything in which he appears.
  2. Reviewed by: Lou Lumenick
    Dec 23, 2011
    75
    Genuinely charming, treacle-free family films are tough to find these days, so I'm happy to heartily recommend We Bought a Zoo as heartwarming holiday fare that even jaded adults can share with the kids.
  3. Reviewed by: Calvin Wilson
    Dec 23, 2011
    75
    As a man committed to reinventing himself, Damon is terrific. And Johansson brings to Kelly just the right blend of spunkiness and hard-won maturity.
  4. Reviewed by: Amy Biancolli
    Dec 22, 2011
    75
    The film is sweet. Its observations of life in the aftermath of death ring true, especially for anyone who's traveled the contours of mourning. And although it doesn't rank among Crowe's greatest films, it's a better, tighter, more disarming piece of grief work than his baggy and zigzaggy "Elizabethtown."
  5. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Dec 22, 2011
    75
    Provides a welcome seasonal dash of wholesomeness and humor.
  6. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Dec 22, 2011
    75
    Scarlett Johansson plays the head zookeeper and she's a lot less mannered than usual.
  7. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Dec 22, 2011
    75
    Damon is extraordinary. He's heartfelt performance has a tough core of intelligence and wit.
  8. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    Dec 21, 2011
    75
    Heartfelt but safe. The missing element is the edgy irrelevance that elevated Crowe's best directorial efforts - "Say Anything," "Jerry Maguire," and "Almost Famous" - above their generic counterparts.
  9. Reviewed by: Rex Reed
    Dec 20, 2011
    75
    We Bought a Zoo has more soul than substance, but I'll be darned if it didn't put a smile on my face and keep it there.
  10. Reviewed by: Owen Gleiberman
    Dec 15, 2011
    75
    The movie is like Doctor Dolittle remade as a therapeutic sudser. By the end, it got to me.
  11. Reviewed by: David Denby
    Jan 9, 2012
    70
    Nothing that happens in this movie is in the least surprising, but it's all quite pleasant and even, at times, moving.
  12. 70
    Cameron Crowe is a romantic bordering on utopian, and his authentic family values - biological and surrogate - shine through in his enchanting We Bought a Zoo.
  13. Reviewed by: J.R. Jones
    Dec 22, 2011
    70
    The movie is quite enjoyable, though, redeemed by Crowe's trademark sincerity and assured handling of oddball character actors.
  14. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    Nov 27, 2011
    70
    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.
  15. Reviewed by: Rene Rodriguez
    Dec 26, 2011
    63
    We Bought a Zoo is the most formulaic movie Cameron Crowe has ever made: It is so generic, you could review it with a flow chart.
  16. Reviewed by: Rick Groen
    Dec 23, 2011
    63
    Director Cameron Crowe who, not having made a dramatic feature since his 2005 stinker "Elizabethtown," seems bound and determined to crank out a crowd-pleaser here.
  17. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Dec 23, 2011
    63
    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.
  18. Reviewed by: Carrie Rickey
    Dec 22, 2011
    63
    Often I couldn't see the character for the metaphors.
  19. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Dec 22, 2011
    63
    Pap, but easygoing pap with a cast you can live with for a couple of hours.
  20. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Dec 21, 2011
    63
    The result is too much formula and not enough human interest.
User Score
7.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 155 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 33 out of 53
  2. Negative: 6 out of 53
  1. Apr 6, 2012
    4
    We Bought a Zoo is a movie for all the family and it is just to have a good time. The topic is peculiar, but not so attractive; and thatWe Bought a Zoo is a movie for all the family and it is just to have a good time. The topic is peculiar, but not so attractive; and that happen because of the title, it tells you the main part of the plot and also it is not very catchy. But what seems a typical American story transform into an interesting conflict between a family that lost its pillar (the mother) who is struggling with its past, and this fight it can be notice in the desperate father, the misunderstood boy and the innocent daughter.
    What turns into a very promising movie fails in the development of the actions. The sequence is extremely predictable and the cute moments were overused.
    However the plot rises again with two things: repeated characters (Benjamin and Dylan have the same personality; and the something similar occur with Kelly and Lily) and the concept of 20 Seconds of Insane Courage. Although all this is wasted because of the predictable and never ending plot.
    The direction and the script are really poor; the performances are up to the movie and the theme turns to be interesting, but all the ups and downs in the plot make this film tedious to watch.
    Full Review »
  2. Dec 27, 2011
    3
    Three of us went to this movie yesterday. My wife and adult son liked it, but I did not. I felt the plot and outcome were very predictableThree of us went to this movie yesterday. My wife and adult son liked it, but I did not. I felt the plot and outcome were very predictable in this story. In my opinion the writer overreached to come up with all the "feel good" outcomes possible and crammed them into one movie. So if you want to see a movie where all the people relationships turn out hunky-dorry and all the problems find speedy, nice solutions, go to this one and soak it in. If you prefer something a little more realistic that keeps you guessing, go to any other show that's out there right now and it will be better. Full Review »
  3. Dec 27, 2011
    7
    Sure, it's a bit of a letdown for a Cameron Crowe movie, but judged in isolation, it's a heartwarming flick, and Thomas Hayden Church isSure, it's a bit of a letdown for a Cameron Crowe movie, but judged in isolation, it's a heartwarming flick, and Thomas Hayden Church is hilarious in it - in a small role. The actor who plays the son isn't quite up to the task, and Elle Fanning over-acts to a fault, but, surprisingly, Scarlett Johansson is better in this than just about anything I've seen her in. The restrained sexuality is what does it for her. You don't have to bed the owner in the first scene to have value in the movie, Scar.... Full Review »