ZOO — Review by Susan Granger

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If you’re searching for a feel-good, family film, I recommend Colin McIvor’s “Zoo,” a crowd favorite on the festival circuit. Based on a true story, it’s about how rebellious 12 year-old Tom Hall (Art Parkinson) and his friends save Buster, a baby elephant, during 1941 air raids on Northern Ireland. Continue reading…

When Tom’s veterinarian father left to fight in W.W. II, Tom continued to visit the Belfast Zoo every day. While he was fond of all the animals, he quickly developed a special bond with Buster and his affection was reciprocated.

When Germany started bombing the countryside, civil defense authorities determined that, if they escaped, the predatory animals could be a threat to the community, so the military preemptively put 33 of them down. (Shots are heard but not seen.)

Fearing that the pachyderm could be next, Tom and his friend Jane (Emily Flain) devise a plan to free Buster, but they’ll need the strength of the school bully, Pete (Ian O’Reilly), to pull it off.

Since her motley collection of other animals made a great deal of noise, eccentric Denise Austin (Penelope Wilton, a.k.a. Isobel Crowley in “Downton Abbey”) provided a walled-in backyard in which to hide Buster. As a grieving widow whose son was killed, she delivers a multi-faceted performance.

Writer/director Colin McIvor notes, “Such an amazing true story from our own hometown really had to be told on-screen. It was a fabulous experience to work with such a talented cast and crew and to know ‘Zoo’ will be seen in America is fantastic.”

Delving into the tension and anxiety of the times, McIvor gives Tom motivation to pull off the prank, along with Jane, the neglected/abused daughter of the town drunk. Character actor Toby Jones plays Charlie, the strict, by-the-books security guard, who eventually does the right thing.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Zoo” is a heart-warming 7 – with a strong sense of purpose.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.