“This weird mashup of The Zookeeper (with Matt Damon instead of Kevin James as the suddenly single guy who talks to the animals) and The Descendants (a man grieving for his wife and taking his two kids on a journey of discovery) might seem an odd detour for Cameron Crowe, who in his early 20s wrote the Rolling Stone article that became the 1982 teen comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

“Crowe graduated to writer-director and made three good movies: Say Anything…, Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous. That last film came out more than a decade ago, yet such was our pleasure in it and its siblings that we’re still in mourning for his late talent. How could we have known that his last film, Elizabethtown, about a depressed man coping with a family death, was not an arrant misfire but the launching of Crowe’s soupy-sappy period?” — from Richard Corliss‘s 12.22 Time review of We Bought A Zoo.