We Bought a Zoo appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The movie boasted a consistently strong presentation.
Sharpness always looked great. Even the widest shots demonstrated fine delineation, so don’t expect to see any signs of softness. The image lacked moiré effects or jaggies, and edge haloes failed to materialize. Print flaws also didn’t show up in this clean presentation.
Like many family flicks, Zoo opted for a palette with a mild golden tint. It still demonstrated a nice range of hues, as the zoo-based scenes were able to open up the tones well. Blacks were dark and tight, and shadows looked clear and smooth. Everything here worked fine.
As for the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it went with pretty typical fare for a drama/comedy, though the zoo setting allowed it to open up a bit. Those scenes spread out the natural elements and created a nice sense of place. Nothing here really excelled, but the track managed to plop us in the zoo atmosphere well.
Audio quality was fine. Music seemed full and vivid, and effects showed good replication; those elements demonstrated solid clarity and heft. Speech was always distinctive and concise. Again, this wasn’t an exceptional soundtrack, but it suited the movie well.
With that, we head to the package’s extras and check out an audio commentary from director Cameron Crowe, actor JB Smoove and editor Mark Livolsi. All three sit together for a running, screen-specific discussion of music and the atmosphere during the shoot, cast and performances, sets and locations, story/character topics, editing, and working with animals.
I’ve really enjoyed other Crowe commentaries, and that fact makes this one a disappointment. While we do learn a decent amount of information about the shoot along the way, the piece usually remains pretty superficial. Smoove comes along almost solely to add some laughs, and this lack of seriousness pervades the commentary. This means the track can be fun but it doesn’t do much to educate us about the movie.
20 Deleted and Extended Scenes fill a total of 37 minutes, 27 seconds. That’s a lot of cut footage – does any of it score? Not really. I already think the theatrical edition of the film runs too long, so it doesn’t surprise me that the excised material lacks much to make it compelling.
Most of the clips end up in the “extensions” category, and they tend to add just a little extra character exposition. Some of these fill in a few small dots but they do nothing to substantially change our viewpoint. At best, we get mild entertainment value here – such as a longer glimpse of Rhonda’s narcissism – but don’t expect much from these pieces.
Next comes a Gag Reel. In this six-minute, 57-second piece, we see a lot of the usual goofs, gags and giggles. A few funny asides pop up, at least, and these make the proceedings a bit more enjoyable than most.
A collection of featurettes appears under the banner of We Shot a Zoo. Taken together, these five segments occupy a total of one hour, 15 minutes, and 52 seconds and they come with narration from Crowe.
“Shot” launches in fall 2006, and introduces us to the real-life Benjamin Mee, the subject of the movie’s story. We also meet Mee’s now-deceased wife Katherine, Smoove, production designer Clay Griffith, Greenfield Ranch manager Gary Robertson, location manager Chris Baugh, art director Dominic Silverstri, producer Julie Yorn, location coordinator Michael Villarino, script supervisor Ana Maria Quintana, still photographer Neal Preston, animal coordinator Mark Forbes, lead lion/tiger trainer Eric Weld, lead bear trainer Doug Seus, bear trainer Lynn Seus, hoofstock trainers Erin Shelley and Alison Smith, animal trainers Dave Sousa and Thomas Gunderson, writer Aline Brosh McKenna, on-set dresser John H. Maxwell, and actors Matt Damon, Thomas Haden Church, Angus Macfadyen, Patricj Fugit, Elle Fanning, Maggie Elizabeth Jones, Colin Ford, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Ybarra, Ben Seeder, John Michael Higgins, Stephanie Stoszak, and Carla Gallo.
“Shot” largely acts like a production diary; as Crowe narrates, we follow the film’s origins and progress. This means we learn about locations and sets, rehearsals and cast, characters and performances, Crowe’s impact on the production and the atmosphere on the set, working with animals, and general thoughts. Shot” tends to be bright and cheerful; it wants to extend the movie’s sense of magic rather than dig into serious details. And that’s mostly fine, though “Shot” ends up with more of a cotton candy feel than I’d like from a 75-minute show. We do learn a reasonable amount about the flick, but expect a lot of happy happy along the way.
Their Happy Is Too Loud goes for 17 minutes, 29 seconds and provides an experience similar to “Shot”. It lets us examine scoring sessions for the film and we hear some observations from Crowe as well as composer Jonsi. Occasional tidbits of information emerge, but mostly we hear praise for Jonsi and his work; useful information appears too infrequently for my liking, and the piece comes across as too self-congratulatory.
Another featurette called The Real Mee lasts 28 minutes, 35 seconds and offers info from Benjamin Mee, the real-life inspiration for the film. He tells us about his zoo-owning experiences and connections to the movie. Probably the best of the Blu-ray’s extras, this provides an involving and informative look at the facts behind the flick’s fiction.
Next we get a Photo Gallery. This comes as a still frame collection that includes 122 shots from the set. These offer better than average quality and give us many nice glimpses of the shoot.
The Blu-ray opens with ads for Ice Age – Continental Drift and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. These appear under Sneak Peek as well, and we also get the trailer for Zoo.
A second disc offers a DVD Copy and a third provides a digital copy of Zoo. These add some portability to the package.
I suspect most people expected a broad, crass comedy from We Bought a Zoo, but instead, the movie provided a warm family flick with a good mix of laughs and seriousness. The film runs too long and can be a little spotty, but it still succeeds more than it drags. The Blu-ray boasts excellent visuals, solid audio and a large though occasionally superficial set of supplements. Zoo doesn’t compete with Cameron Crowe’s best work, but it’s a nice family flick.