I was going through a lot personally when I made We Bought A Zoo. My newest wife, Martha Marcy May Marlene Strange, had just revealed herself as a bit of a money hog. Everything I made, she spent. So one day I told her she was "fatter than a zoo," and the idea of building a film around paying bills for a zoo was born. As an added bonus, I also made the film about a dead wife.
We Bought a Zoo stars Matt Damon as We, a recent widower just trying to keep his plates spinning in the absence of his wife, Us. This proves difficult thanks to his two children, Cutie Pie and Asshat. Cutie Pie actually helps him around the house and uses her precocious nature to teach him life lessons, cook all the food and do his taxes. Asshat, on the other hand, only retards the family's forward progression by drawing pictures of demons and getting kicked out of school. He also cuts himself, pours hot wax on his thighs and borrows his dad's identity on BBW MILF chatrooms.
We is a strong individual who has spent his whole life throwing himself into dangerous situations as a journalist. For instance, he ran with the bulls in Pamplona, spent two weeks on outer space and routinely interviewed dangerous political figures such as Admiral General Aladeen. Since We's wife died, however, he hasn't had the spark. His employer has kept him around only out of pity. Once he realizes this, he quits his job immediately because he's above pity. His boss offers to fire him so he can at least collect unemployment, but he sees that as pity, too (Which it is. Nanny politics only make this sickening welfare state we live in more strongerest. Women are whores).
You may be impressed that We would give up financial aid simply as a point of principal, but don't be. He's white, drives an SUV and lives in a massive house. The few principals he has are all based on Tom Petty songs. He also has an inheritance from his father, and later gets a hidden Hail Mary inheritance from his dead wife. So really, quitting his job is less an act of bravery and more an act of passive aggressive class warfare. We thinks he's too cool for Jimmy Buffet, but he's not.
We goes looking for a new house in a new town that won't remind him of Us. But they all look too boring and unadventurous for his Cat Stevens individuality. Finally they get to the bottom of potential properties, and it's a fucking zoo. We likes the land and the house, but he's not sure he can handle the responsibility of caring for a bunch of endangered animals, especially after Cutie Pie accidentally kills a flock of peacocks by feeding them animal crackers. But then he gets stared down by a lion who imbues him with Spirit of Lion, and he buys the property, anyway.
See, We has this philosophy that to do something great with your life all you need is twenty seconds of true bravery. Throughout the film, we see him do scary things, and we know deep down that none of them can last more than twenty seconds. Buying the zoo requires this tactic, but the paperwork alone takes him two days to fill out because he can only work on it in twenty second intervals. The rest of the time he's shitting his pants over what a bad idea it is.
Eventually, he claims ownership of the zoo, and the film's cast expands to include animals, human beings and Scarlett Johansson. Of the animals, there's a depressed bear that We will anthropomorphize into himself and a dying tiger that We will anthropomorphize into his dead wife. The rest don't matter. Of the humans there's a fat badass with a ponytail, a pretty girl for Asshat to fall in love with and a zookeeper who always walks around with something on his shoulder. It looks like a monkey, but it's actually cancer. Then there's Scarlett Johansson. She plays a zookeeper outfit that speaks dialog and falls in love with We.
We's main objective is to get the broken down zoo fixed up for inspection, so they can open for the summer season and rake in all that big dough enjoyed by shoddy, privately owned zoos worldwide for their greater potential for displaying animal fucking thanks to their less stringent regulation codes. To do this, he'll need to write lots of checks and carry around a shitload of wooden posts.
Even for his massive wallet, taking care of a zoo costs a lot more than We expected. Things get really bad when the depressed bear escapes his enclosure. They find him and get him back to the zoo, but not before he decapitates two different sets of twins, each of which set We back $100,000.
Before We knows it, he's out of cash, which prompts the zoo's secretary to hold an employee conference behind his back to call him a fraud. Instead of betraying We, the employees politely inform the secretary what the word "fraud" means. "Oh," she says. "I meant to call him a bum." Instead of betraying We, the employees politely ship her off to a private zoo in Mexico where chimpanzees run things and it is PEOPLE who are in the cages!
Luckily, the ghost of We's dead wife sends him some emergency money and things can go on as if nothing happened. We then enjoy several montages where We carries wooden posts and thrilling sequences where the camera slowly follows his mouse cursor all around his computer screen (by billing the film as a heartwarming entertainment that also teaches old people how to use computers I was able to tack an extra dollar onto ticket prices.)
But not everything is going well. We's daughter Cutie Pie is in hog heaven at the zoo, particularly when visiting the Hog Heaven wing. But his son, Asshat, isn't having as much fun. He's bummed out that none of his friends will visit. Also, his mom died.
What this little shit doesn't realize is that there's a girl at the zoo who loves him. She's really pretty and she feeds him sandwiches everyday at 4:45 even though he continuously ignores her. He thinks he's better than her just because she laughs weird and smiles all the time and is clearly mentally handicapped. But he lives on a zoo. It's either her or the sheep.
Eventually, We has to confront his Asshat's asshat, and he does so in a speech which solidifies his Rock n' Roll responsibility by replacing his son's name with "Man" as often as possible: "C'mon Man. You gotta like the zoo! It's all we have! I mean, you live on a zoo, Man! You're little sister thinks it's radical, why can't you, Man? You gotta Man up and be a man, Dude! There's a sweet retarded girl who loves you and you're just moping around drawing cool-ass pictures, Man!" This is clearly a guy who bases his entire intelligence around liking John Lennon more than Paul McCartney.
Anyway, after that his son is cured of his Asshat and changes his name to Man. But that's not We's only problem. The zoo's old tiger is dying, but We won't have him euthanized because he already made that mistake once. Eventually, We relents and the tiger is destroyed, but only after it tells him to brush his teeth and wash his privates before coming to bed.
With that out of the way, all that stands between We and billions of zoo "spirit" dollars is an inspection. It doesn't look good at first, but just as the inspector is about to flush We's dreams down the toilet, Cutie Pie calls him a "fucking asshole" and his heart just melts. Now the zoo can open legally.
But not so fast. It looks like God has a problem with We's wife giving him money from Heaven, so he threatens to ruin We's plans by sending California(?) the rainiest summer it's had in over a hundred years. Everyone gets really sad, but then Marilyn Manson puts out a new album and God gets distracted. Before he goes to see if it's as good as Manson's old stuff, he knocks a tree over so it blocks the zoo's entrance. But because Man (aka Asshat) has been drawing creepy creatures the whole movie, Satan gives him a heads-up and the zoo crew moves the tree so millions of excited waiting people can come in and see all the wonderful animal humping action.
God deems the new Marilyn Manson album an overrated disappointment and brings back the rain. But he can never take away We's one day of zoo success, and therefore gains no satisfaction when the zoo closes only two weeks into the constant rainstorm. In fact, he feels a little guilty, so he keeps the rain coming and charges We with building a massive boat that can hold two of all the zoo's animals while the rest of the animal kingdom drowns.
Oh, Thomas Hayden Church is in the movie, too.