We Bought A Zoo (2011) 
Blu-ray Drama
Written by Noah Fleming   
Monday, 09 April 2012

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“We Bought A Zoo” is just about one of those films that has all the good parts in the trailer.  Most definitely it is one of those films that really struggles for the first half.  In fact, I was very worried about its two-hour runtime as I sat through the first hour.

The film doesn’t tell a unique story.  Not by a long shot, we the exception of the zoo elements.  At its heart it is a simple story of a single father who moves his two children to a mountain home in order to get a new start.  In addition, the story finds its footing in the age-old father-son battle to understand each other.  Of course, the son is in a dark, gothic-like phase, drawing pictures like a tortured soul.

The romantic element is thrown into the mix with Scarlet Johannson for Matt Damon’s character and Elle Fanning for the teenage son.

The film has its pluses.  The daughter is a ray of sunshine in otherwise bland story-telling sequences.  The zoo animals are real and gorgeous.  And, occasionally there are few one-liners that make you chuckle, particularly from Thomas Haden Church.

The film has its moments, but in all honesty it is a predictable adventure.  There is a fine line between predictability and a story that is predictable but engaging.  This film falls right on that line, making it difficult to form any strong opinion in either direction.

What isn’t difficult to take in is the video quality of this Blu-ray release.  Fox’s AVC transfer is for all intensive purposes, perfect.  Colors are extraordinary, always remaining stable and lush.  The greens of the land and the vibrancy of the animals is terrific.  Topping the color, are the details.  Details and textures are without a doubt the clear and crisp.  The fur on the animals is razor sharp.  Just take a look at the lion and tiger sequences.  I felt more in touch with these animals than I did in “African Cats.”  The other aspects of the transfer get overshadowed by the clarity, but they too are exceptional.  The only thing I am going to nitpick on are the shadows.  There are couple instances in which the shadow delineation is not as good as it could have been.  This is likely an original production issue caused by lighting and film stock in the darker scenes.  Nevertheless, for those looking at every minute detail, the shadows do have issues here or there.  Now, for everyone else those shadows are not even going to be given a second thought and that is why the video is getting a perfect rating.

The audio is far less thrilling than the video.  It is presented in DT-HD MA, but the track lacks any really convincing sound design.  So while any underwhelming aural behavior is original sound design, the track here on the Blu-ray is finely presented.  The biggest issue I had with the audio track as is, is the clarity of the dialogue in some instances.  Occasionally the dialogue falls prey to some of the sound effects or music cues.  Still, the intent is always clear.  The surround channels are the worst offenders of the original sound design.  They are mainly empty, which is surprising given the fact that the film is nearly entirely set in the zoo.  Sure, there are few instances of envelopment, but they are few any far between.  Given the adventure that the film proposes, I did expect a lot more in the way of audio enthusiasm.

The special features on the disc present some interesting and some not so interesting information.  There is a director’s audio commentary.  Unfortunately, the track is fairly dull and non-informative in terms of important aspects of the film.  There are more deleted/extended scenes than I can count.  As I watched the film it was easy to see spots in which the editing was awkward, making it easily distinguishable that scenes were missing or rearranged.  This isn’t a good sign for a film.  Too many options and uncertainty lead a film to lose its focus.  The best part of the extra features is “We Shot A Zoo,” which is a five-part piece covering every aspect of the production.  It is the one piece that should be watched.  “The Real Mee” is about the real zoo owner.”  “Their Happy Is Too Loud” is about the film’s score.  Finally, there is a gag reel, photo gallery and trailer.  The package also includes a DVD Copy and a Digital Copy (three discs).

“We Bought A Zoo” is a family-friendly film, but it may put a fair amount of viewers to sleep, at least until the second half.  The audio and video qualities are impressive, particularly the latter.  The disc is recommended, but the movie is only worth a rent.
Studio 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
MPAA Rating PG
Starring Matt Damon, Scarlett Johannson, Elle Fanning, Thomas Haden Church, Patrick Fugit, John Michael Higgins
Director Cameron Crowe
Film Release Year 2011
Release Year 2012
Resolution(s) 1080p (main feature) • 1080p (supplements)
Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Running Time 2 hrs. 4 mins.
Sound Formats English Dolby Digital 5.1 • English DTS-HD Master 5.1 • French Dolby Digital 5.1 • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles English SDH • Spanish
Special Features Director Audio Commentary; Deleted/Extended Scenes; “The Real Mee”; “”We Shot A Zoo”; “Their Happy Is Too Loud”; Gag Reel; Photo Gallery; Trailer; DVD Copy; Digital Copy
Forum Link http://www.avrev.com/forum
Reviewer Noah Fleming

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