We Bought a Zoo
A widowed father played by Matt Damon moves to the South Californian country and purchases a zoo with his family
On Film4: 31 Aug 6:25PM
Documentary about five English football 'freestylers' who attempt to busk their way from New York to Argentina to meet their idol Diego Maradona
To many English football fans, Diego Maradona is a pantomime villain whose chief crime was literally punching England out of the 1986 World Cup in the notorious 'hand of god' goal incident. To the five British lads who set out to meet him on his home turf, Diego is more than a hero; he's an idol, an inspiration, the living embodiment of their dreams. And so, having blagged flights to the US, they endeavour to make it from New York City to Buenos Aires, using only their "freestyling" (ball juggling) skills to pay their way.
While this quintet - failed pros Woody and Danny, devout Christian Jeremy, cheeky Scouser Mikey and Somalian-born street kid Sami - are experts on Diego, they're also seemingly blissfully unaware of the cultural, social and economic realities of life on the road through the Americas, North (with its 52 states), Central and finally South. Of course this naivety makes for great fly-on-the-ball viewing; and unlike many reality TV-style protagonists, these lads and their dazzling ball skills have a genuine talent.
That also applies to co-directors, brothers Ben and Gabe Turner. Though blessed to be given a quintet of personalities so beautifully diverse - mother hen Woody versus mouthy loner Mikey; calm, spiritual Jeremy to volatile Sami - to follow, their impartial rendering of the entire road trip jinks and dummies along as entertainingly as a trademark Maradona dribble. They particularly excel in the punchy montages of the boys' eye-catching ball routines, which wow spectators from media-savvy Times Square throngs through to dirt-poor villagers in Guatemala.
If anything, the film could do with a little less pace early on; there's obviously so much footage of the trip itself that has to be crammed in, introductions to the five lads and their specific, often heart-rending, backstories, are rather hastily delineated. There's also scant emphasis given to the (lack of) impact their presence creates on any one community, the film becoming almost as myopic in its quest for Diego as the boys themselves. This is fine when it comes to inter-group soap operatics - which two will take the only pair of Mexican plane tickets? - but highlights the limitations of this road trip as social document.
That said the group dynamic and performances are never less than enthralling and the quest itself, once in South America, attains an almost mythic dimension. It would be unsporting to reveal who, if any, of the group achieve their mission, but what the Turner brothers clearly show is it's how you go about the pursuit of a dream that really counts. Give them and all five lads a big - and entirely legitimate - hand.
A thoroughly entertaining if necessarily condensed road trip that you don't have to be a football - or Maradona - fan to enjoy.
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