I’ve read several reviews of Cameron Crowe‘s We Bought A Zoo (20th Century Fox, 12.23). They all expound on the usual-usuals with about two-thirds approving and one-third saying ixnay. But so far no reviews have mentioned my big complaint, which is that whatever you might think of the script or the acting the film rests upon a fundamentally rancid notion that zoos are cool. Which of course they’re not. They’re kindly penal institutions with animals doing life sentences.

How would critics respond, I wonder, to a spiritually wholesome film about a Southern family in the 1840s growing cotton and lording over 25 slaves? Would they ignore the slave aspect? What if the story is about a recently widowed German father inheriting a steel plant in the late 1930s? Would critics have any comment about how the factory’s steel products might be used for appalling purposes or would they just focus on the emotional interplay between the dad and his two kids, Klaus and Greta?

What about a dramedy about a widowed father inheriting a privately-managed jail and trying to turn the jail around by treating the inmates with a bit more care and consideration (as I speculated last month)? Actually there would be nothing to say about this, really, since prisons are socially necessary and zoos are not.

Why, in short, do I appear to be the only guy talking about the repellent nature of zoos, and how, for me, this aspect has definitely and inescapably been a factor in my reactions to the film? I’ve received many, many letters from PETA members and animal lovers thanking me for saying the right thing about zoos in my three Zoo articles, but I don’t understand why so many others are saying nothing.

If anyone finds a review that agrees with me or at least touches on the animals-as-prison-convicts aspect, please forward.