Monday, July 2, 2018

ZOO: SAVING PRIVATE ELEPHANT

By José Alberto Hermosillo


A delightful family drama based on an incredible true story of a boy and his friends on a journey to help save a baby elephant during wartime.
"Zoo" poster. Photo Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films / Copyright © 2017 Jacks Film Co.Ltd
At the Bellevue Zoo in the city of Belfast, Northern Ireland, a little elephant arrives. Soon we learn that the pachyderm had a difficult time where he came from and needs considerable attention to survive.
"Zoo." Photo Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films / Copyright © 2017 Jacks Film Co.Ltd
Young actor Art Parkinson is quite a revelation in this movie. He plays the twelve-year-old boy Tom Hall with so much charm and moves with ease in front of the camera. Tom joins his father, the veterinarian headman, in his daily routine at the zoo. The convalescent baby elephant is in a special care unit.
"Zoo." Photo Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films / Copyright © 2017 Jacks Film Co.Ltd
When Tom and his father arrive to visit him, it is an instant connection between the little creature and the boy.

Inspired by the great American actor and comedian Buster Keaton ("The General," 1926), Tom names the elephant "Buster." 
"Zoo." Photo Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films / Copyright © 2017 Jacks Film Co.Ltd
In school, Tom gets bullied by his classmates. Regardless of the unfriendly environment, he finds some allies. Among them is a friendly silent girl, a tall chubby boy with his “little brother,” and the long-standing lady with an infinite love for animals.

Tom's father leaves the zoo and his family to fight in the war. Thousands of people die in Ireland during the two bombings executed by Germans.

During the WWII raids, the authorities ordered to kill all the animals in the zoo, in case they escape and endanger public safety. 

Tom quickly learns that the same fate could happen to Buster.  He will do whatever it takes to save the elephant’s life.
Zoo poster  Photo Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films / Copyright © 2017 Jacks Film Co.Ltd
Regarding story structure, “Zoo” runs a little slow. The screenplay overstates the refusal-of-the-call of every single character way too much, creating an enormous barrier for the harmonious flow of the piece.

This film needed a melodic orchestration to make the story unfold smoother. Like in the classic works centered on children of the visionary filmmakers Alfonso Cuarón “A Little Princess” or in Agnieszka Holland’s “The Secret Garden.”    
“Zoo” distances itself from other European productions from the same period, such as “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” a much more obscure film set in Poland with a bigger budget

Straightforward, warm, affectionate, “Zoo” focuses on loyalty and friendship. This war movie with children in it leaves everlasting recollections in the viewer's memory.

Other stunning war films that leave a similar response are the French production “A Bag of Marbles.” It recounts the journey of two Jewish brothers escaping the Nazi invasion in Paris. 

The Italian Oscar© winner “Life is Beautiful” a heartfelt story of a boy and his father inside of a concentration camp during the Holocaust. 

Also, “The Book Thief.” It tells the story of a smart and brave girl who brings books to read to a Jewish refugee hidden in her step-parents’ basement.
“Zoo” is an adaption from an article published in an Irish newspaper that led an exhaustive investigation to find Denise Austin, the eccentric lady who, in real life, saved the elephant while working at the zoo. For her heroic action, she was named the “elephant angel.”
"Zoo." Photo Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films / Copyright © 2017 Jacks Film Co.Ltd
Ironically in this film, Mrs. Austin, played by the actress Penelope Wilton, has only a small part as the friendly neighbor and an animal-lover. She has nothing to do with the zoo but plenty to do with the elephant.
"Zoo." Photo Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films / Copyright © 2017 Jacks Film Co.Ltd
Director Colin McIvor’s surprisingly well-made first feature continues a tradition of excellence in Irish Cinema.

“Zoo” has some dynamically written fine lines to be delivered by a group of terrific actors who portray those unique and diverse characters in this somehow... a moving family drama.

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