Last year, I introduced you to the book and my thoughts of the forthcoming film adaptation of We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee. I went to see the film at the cinema today and, to be honest, I had gone from being excited (about a year ago) to feeling a bit like I’m only seeing it because of Dartmoor Zoo. The film ended up exceeding my expectations and wasn’t twee at all.

I would suggest approaching the film without comparing to the book. It does use elements of Benjamin’s life but there is a lot that has been changed to make it into a film that works. Since I last wrote about it, I have learned that the choice to move the film from Dartmoor to America was a practical one. They wanted performing animals and we don’t have performing animals. So it surprised me when the animals weren’t the stars of the show. Instead, the family dynamics took centre stage.

The story has been moved to about 6 months after Benjamin’s wife’s death. It’s getting to the point where people are expecting them to get on with life. I normally cringe at child actors but Colin Ford and Maggie Elizabeth Jones do sterling jobs. The father gets irritated and at times overwhelmed, there are arguments, there are tears but overall he is doing the best he can. At no point in the film does it gloss over the fact that they are mourning Katherine yet it’s never depressing. I admit, I cried quite a bit and there was some snuffling coming from the rest of the audience.

Cameron Crowe made good use of beautiful natural light for the outdoor scenes. And whilst American, they still managed to squash in the nightmare rainy days that plague zoos in this country (and indeed on Dartmoor). I’m pretty sure that one bit of the soundtrack was sampled from Zoo Tycoon which made me smile.

The one thing I didn’t like was the zoo inspector who was a complete caricature. I suppose they were trying to add some humour or perhaps it was an in-joke for those that worked in zoos but he just irritated me. I still think the circumstances of the purchase of the zoo seem a bit fake in this version of events. In reality the zoo was bought with much consideration but here it’s bought on a whim.