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500. Zoo; movie review

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Title : 500. Zoo; movie review
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Cert PG
95 mins
BBFC advice: Contains mild bad language, threat

Here's a first - I have never watched an entire movie on a mobile phone until now!
And I am surprised to reveal that my experience of taking in Colin McIvor's Zoo was good enough for me to enjoy it.
Zoo is a family movie which was perfect to keep me going during a tortuously delayed train journey.
It stars Art Parkinson as Tom - the 12-year-old son of a zoo employee who is conscripted to the Second World War.
He persuades his friend (Emily Flain) that they need to rescue his beloved baby elephant because the authorities are destroying animals, fearing that they might escape during aid raids.
Thus, they make an unlikely liaison with a school bully (Ian O'Reilly) who proves to be such a softie that he brings his charming, disabled brother (James Stockdale).
Completing the criminal gang is Penelope Wilton as Denise Austin, a woman who is regarded by her neighbours as an oddball because she keeps a menagerie at her home.
Interestingly, the story has an element of truth because the real Mrs Austin actually worked at the zoo during the war and took the elephant home every night to look after him.
I digress. That is not what happens during Colin McIvor's film.
In other words, it is another film in which really interesting facts have been garbled to make a movie which may or may not be more riveting than reality.
Regardless, Zoo is a fun family film with a Famous Five-style action story topped with moral messages and more than a tinge of tragedy.
Even though Wilton and Toby Jones have cameos, the children (and the elephant) are very much its stars and have the exuberance to carry along the audience.
I found it something of a relief to the swathe of crash-bang-wallop pictures. Its heart beats loud and its sensitivities are from a bygone era.
But the hint of nostalgia and fight against adversity, along with a slice of comedy give it a zestful, feelgood quality.

Reasons to watch: Feelgood family entertainment
Reasons to avoid: Some may find it a tad schmaltzy

Laughs: Three
Jumps: None
Vomit: None
Nudity: None
Overall rating: 7.5/10

Director quote - Colin McIvor: "It was a massive undertaking to go out to Canada and film with the elephant but it had to be done because it was so integral. We'd made a rod for our own backs and for years people had told me 'just CGI it, do it like Dumbo' – but it had to look real."

The big question - What happened to the animals in England's zoos during the war?

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