Monday, November 21, 2011

'We Bought a Zoo' Crew Covers THR

So, THR writes up 'We Bought a Zoo'. Nice cover. No Matt Damon, but nice. I was struck by this excerpt:


Crowe traveled to the set of the Coen brothers' True Grit in Austin and presented Damon with a script, a CD of songs that he'd burned and a copy of Local Hero -- a perfect little 1983 movie in which Peter Riegert played an oil-company executive sent to buy a remote village in Scotland, to woo him for Zoo. "My instructions were to not just read the script and make a decision," Damon says. Crowe had brought all the tools in his kit -- music, film and words -- not only to convey what he had in mind for this movie but to envelop Damon in the world he meant to create. "He said: 'I know what you're going to be afraid of; the bad version of this movie is really a movie you don't want to be in. That's what I'm afraid of too,' " Damon says.

Have to admit I'm glad to hear they at least tried to avoid 'the Disney version'. Just couldn't sit through that. Still have my doubts but this is good news.

But, what really catches my eye is the mention of 'Local Hero'. Have you seen this film? One of the most charming and affecting movies I've seen. About a burned-out schlubby middle of the pack oil company exec, Mac (played by Peter Riegert), who is sent to a beautiful bay in Scotland to buy up all the property from the locals so the boss (Burt Lancaster) can build an oil refinery on the site.

I know -- doesn't sound charming -- but the way the villagers' easy-going natural day-to-day life transforms Mac from a jaded city-dweller to a lover of nature, a reborn man really, makes for one of the most gratifying stories you're likely to see in a movie.

There's one scene in particular I love. Mac heads out to convince the only person who won't relinquish his property, Ben Knox (the local eccentric played by Fulton MacKay), to sell his strip of beach. Knox has Mac sit by the fire to work out details. Mac is eager and confident, making it clear the oil company has very deep pockets and will make Knox a rich man if he sells. Knox balks at the idea but offers a deal. He reaches down and scoops up a handful of sand and says he'll sell his beach to Mac in exchange for one dollar for every grain of sand he's holding. Mac's jaw drops, looking at the fistful of sand. Knox spills some and says, "Oop! Just saved you a few dollars." Mac eyes the man, sees he's not bluffing, but wonders if he's totally crazy. After a tense moment Mac suggests this is no way to make a business transaction. Knox holds fast -- that's the deal: a dollar for each grain of sand he's holding and the beach is Mac's -- take it or leave it. Finally, Mac caves saying he's in no position to offer that much money. Knox drops the sand saying, "Well! You could have had yourself a deal. For, I cannot hold more than ten thousand grains of sand in my hand, give or take." Mac narrows his eyes feeling like a fool. Knox beams, having made his point.

The scene is a distillation of the film's thematic subtext. A gem. Rewarding to watch every time.

'Local Hero' is uplifting, genuine, its sincerity catches you off guard. It's surely Riegert's best role, and one of Lancaster's best as well.

That 'Local Hero' was used by Cameron Crowe to help convince Matt Damon to make 'We Bought a Zoo' is promising. At least it says something about their intentions. If Zoo delivers even half the charm of 'Local Hero' it'll be a hit. Like I said, I have my doubts but I'm as jaded as Mac was.

We'll see. Zoo will be released two days before X-mas -- good timing for a flick like this.

If you haven't seen 'Local Hero', check it out. I can say with some confidence you'll be glad you did.

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