A voiceover by a teenage boy tells about his dad, Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon), saying that he is a writer who goes on all sorts of adventures. We see him with killer bees, flipping through an almost completely stamped passport, and in a helicopter headed into the eye of a Category 4 hurricane. The voice then says that he is up for his biggest adventure…
Benjamin is rushing around in the morning, trying to get his two children, Dylan (Colin Ford), 14, and Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones), 7, fed and ready for school. As they try to get a healthy breakfast while running late, Benjamin wonders aloud if anyone has even said good morning. He receives a call from a woman wanting him to go on a hike; he says he’s too busy. They are ready to rush out the door when he realizes he forgot their lunches.
In the car on the way to school, Benjamin argues with Dylan about him not reading a book for school and tells him that he will flunk. Benjamin tells him that if he spent half as much time on schoolwork that he does on his art, he would succeed in school. Dylan says that no one will give a boy whose mother died six months ago an F. He tells his father “whatever” and Benjamin says that he doesn’t want to hear that word again in this century and for him to try another word. Dylan says “pernicious”. Rosie asks what that means, and Benjamin sadly tells her that it means to cause insidious harm or ruin, causing damage.
As they tumble out of the car, Dylan’s backpack breaks and Benjamin says he will replace it, then asks Dylan where his mother bought a backpack. Dylan rushes off without saying goodbye, but Rosie tells him goodbye and waves. A mother comes up to Benjamin, giving him a casserole and tries to invite herself to dinner. He takes the dish, turning her down, says goodbye to Rosie one last time and heads back to the car, several mothers watching him leave.
Benjamin meets his brother, Duncan (Thomas Haden Church), for lunch, but they cannot agree on a place. Benjamin doesn’t want to go to Little Dom’s, and Duncan says that he’ll never be able to go anywhere if he doesn’t go to places he went with Katherine (Stephanie Szostak), his deceased wife. Benjamin reminds Duncan that Little Dom’s is where they first met. They decide to do lunch another day, but Duncan asks Benjamin to let a little sunlight in, to have a little human interaction. He implores him to attempt to start over. Benjamin tells him that he’ll try.
Benjamin is in his editor’s office, pitching a new story. The editor doesn’t like it, but offers to let Benjamin have an online column so he’ll be safe in the ever-changing world of newspapers. Benjamin senses his sympathy and tells him that he is sick of sympathy and quits. As he leaves, he receives a call.
The call was from Dylan’s school. Benjamin and Dylan sit in the principal’s office. Dylan has stolen money, but the principal seems more worried about Dylan’s art. He shows him a wall mural that Dylan has done, a gory image of a decapitation, which is much better than any of the other artwork. Benjamin stares at it, puzzled, as the principal tells him that this is Dylan’s fourth strike, and they are a three strike school, so Dylan is expelled. As Dylan complains that he is being expelled for his art, Benjamin tells him that it is because he stole, and that Dylan is breaking Benjamin’s heart.
Rosie is making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as Benjamin watches. Benjamin asks her if he’s doing anything right. Rosie thinks about it, then says that he is handsomer than the other dads because he has more hair, and so he has that going for him. Benjamin jokes that he will mark baldness off his list. Rosie makes a check mark in the air.
That night Benjamin goes into Dylan’s room while he sleeps and sees that his notebook is full of troubling images, both scary and sad. He goes to his bathroom and looks at old bottles of medicine, presumably from his wife’s illness, that he can’t bear to throw away and a picture of the two of them. Rosie comes in to tell him that she can’t sleep again because of the neighbors. She tells him that their “happy is too loud”. He takes her to her room where they can see the neighbors having a party with people laughing and smiling. Benjamin watches as Rosie falls asleep.
The next day, Benjamin and Rosie go house hunting with their real estate agent (J. B. Smoove) who is on his first day. Rosie tells him about her mother, and the agent says that he thinks he would have liked Katherine just by knowing Rosie. After seeing house after house, Rosie shows them the listing for an 18-acre home in the country. They are headed out to it, and the agent tries to tell them that the house is “complicated”. Both Benjamin and Rosie are captivated by it as they drive up, and Benjamin tells Rosie that she doesn’t need to take pictures of it because they are going to live there. The real estate agent keeps alluding that the property is difficult, and after hearing a roar, he is forced to tell them that it is a zoo (Rosemoor Animal Park). Rosie’s reaction: Yay!
They go down to see the lion and the agent tells them that the property is being sold with the understanding that the new owners will be responsible for maintaining and caring for all of the animals. He tells Benjamin that if someone doesn’t buy the property soon, the animals will have to be put down. Benjamin is disappointed, clearly deciding that this is too much work, when he notices that Rosie is gone. The agent and Benjamin take off looking for her, with Benjamin saying “I keep her home from school one day, and she gets eaten!” They find her playing with birds, smiling and laughing. Benjamin is forced to sit, seeing how happy his child is.
He meets his brother Duncan for lunch, telling him that he is going to buy the zoo, and all about how 75% of the zoo’s revenue is made in the summer, and as it is February, they will have several months to get it ready for a big inspection. Duncan tells him that when he told him to attempt to start over, he wanted him to have HUMAN interaction. He said that he wants Benjamin to go through the stages of grief, but stop just before zebras get involved. Benjamin jokingly explains that there are two zebras, and starts listing other animals (about 50 species) that the zoo has.
Dylan is predictably unhappy, but Benjamin tells him that short of home schooling him, this is their only option. Rosie and Benjamin are purging old clothes, and Rosie decides that a sweatshirt of Benjamin’s that Katherine often wore is ready to move on to a new owner.
As they drive off with the moving truck behind them, they pass through town and Benjamin sees Katherine as he first saw her sitting at Little Dom’s. When driving onto the property, at the Jaguar Restaurant a young girl is putting up lighted letters spelling out “Welcome Brave New Owners”. Two zoo workers watch Benjamin and his children moving in skeptically.
The next day the zookeepers have gathered to meet the Mee family. They are introduced as head zookeeper Kelly (Scarlett Johansson), Robin (Patrick Fugit), the Capuchin monkey Crystal (who is always on Robin’s shoulder), enclosure/zoo designer Peter MacCready (Angus Macfayden), and Kelly’s 13 year old cousin Lily (Elle Fanning) who is too young to work there so she is paid under the table from Kelly’s wages. Lily runs the Jaguar Restaurant and lives and is home schooled on the zoo grounds. Benjamin introduces himself, Rosie, his “big boy” Dylan (which earns him an eye roll), and their dog Leon. He gives a speech about how he declares that they are all modern day adventurers and sponsors of animal greatness. Everyone seems amused and less than impressed. The zookeepers lead Benjamin on a tour, showing him things that need immediate repairs.
Kelly stops him and asks him WHY he, having no background in the zoo world and knowing nothing about animals, and having young children, would buy the zoo. After she rambles on, he smiles and says “Why not?!” He asks if she is coming. She exasperatedly follows him. Lily asks Dylan how old he is and he tells her “14, I guess”, and it’s clear both of them are flustered and shy. Kelly explains that Spar, the 17 year old Bengal tiger is getting older and “decisions” will have to be made. Benjamin doesn’t want to hear anything about it. Kelly teaches them how to chuff at the tigers and they chuff back. When Benjamin attempts to talk to Buster the bear, he irritates it and the zookeepers all talk about how he isn’t talking to the animals right; that he should be talking to them like they are people, like he would talk to anyone.
That night Benjamin is going over bills, and Dylan is shown in his bed, holding a picture of himself with his mother and looking sad. Then Benjamin is shown again as he hears animal noises and walks outside. He hears what sounds like people, and follows the sounds to the Jaguar Restaurant where the entire staff is gathered. MacCready is throwing darts at a picture of Walter Ferris, the zoo inspector, a man he knows well, and goes on and on about how he stole $500 from MacCready in the 80s, then stole his design ideas for an animal park and then shut down Rosemoor Animal Park. Everyone is laughing and rolling their eyes - clearly this is a story they have heard often. They welcome Benjamin in, and he shares a drink with them.
The next morning, Benjamin shows up dressed totally wrong, looking slightly ridiculous, but ready to work. He is ready to build the porcupines a new enclosure, but talks to them wrong and is forced to jump into thorns to avoid being “quilled”. He curses at them, and Robin tells him that THAT is more the way you should talk to the animals. Duncan comes to help, but is still trying to get Benjamin to reconsider opening the zoo. Benjamin tells him that he just wants Rosie and Dylan to have an authentic American experience.
In the afternoon, Dylan is drawing when Lily finds him and asks if he wants a sandwich. He says no, but she gives him one anyway. She sits down, watching him work. She tells him that she likes his artwork, but that it is a little dark. She asks him where the sun is. He jokes that as far as he knows, there is no sun at the end of the world. She leaves, telling Dylan that she gets off work at 4 every day, and she will bring him a sandwich every day at 4:15.
The next day, Benjamin is sorting through bill after expensive bill, watching the money mount up. Dylan is shown checking his watch. Right at 4:15, Lily brings him a wrapped sandwich with his name on it, which she gives him with a smile before bouncing off. Dylan unwraps it and inside there is a note that says “Hey Dylan” and has a smiling sun wearing sunglasses. Dylan smiles. That evening as Rosie and Dylan are shucking ears of corn, Benjamin tells him that he has forgotten butter. He stresses that it will be nine miles each way just to get butter, and wants a family vote on how important butter is to their meal. The next scene is Benjamin arriving home from the grocery store, Dylan waiting for him on the front porch. Benjamin sees Kelly still hard at work, and tells her to leave the rest of the work with them and they will take care of it. She rattles off several things, like Spar needing his new medicine, the shed light needing turned off, new exotic snakes in crates that she will take care of tomorrow, monkeys needing fruit, etc. Benjamin takes the things from her and shoos her off, but Kelly and Benjamin share several dopey smiles as she walks to her truck. Benjamin finally walks up to Dylan, saying that it is 18.4 miles roundtrip. Dylan replies that he found butter.
The family goes out to do Kelly’s leftover chores, Benjamin giving Dylan the task of shutting off the shed lights. He goes off with Rosie to give Spar his medicine. Spar is obviously in pain, but doesn’t want to take his medicine. Rosie tells Benjamin that Dylan really loves him, but is mad that his friends haven’t come to see him at the zoo since he thought they would. Dylan goes into the shed to turn off the lights, but is intrigued by the crates of snakes. He opens it, is startled, and runs off without securing the latch.
As Benjamin is tucking Rosie in, he discovers his old sweatshirt. He says that he thought that they gave it away, but Rosie says she wants to keep it. Rosie asks him if her mother hurt before she died, and Benjamin asks if she remembers when Katherine talked to her about that. Rosie doesn’t. Benjamin tells her that Katherine said that sometimes things look a lot worse than they feel. Dylan is hovering outside Rosie’s door, listening to their conversation. Benjamin asks Rosie if she feels that she can no longer see or hear her mother. Rosie says she does feel that way, but she knows what to do. She reaches out to “catch her spirit” and then puts it in her heart. Dylan wipes away a tear. Benjamin gets Rosie to start laughing and exclaims that her happy is now loud, too.
The next morning, Benjamin is doing much better with the morning routine, but starts in on Dylan not reading an assigned book. Dylan says Benjamin’s so funny with everyone else, but always gets onto him and he finds that funny. Benjamin tells him not to change the subject as they rush out the door. The yard is covered in snakes. Dylan shouts that he is an idiot. Benjamin starts to rush into the yard, but runs back onto the porch saying that he’ll call Kelly. Everyone (minus Rosie) is picking up the snakes as Benjamin gets onto Dylan for letting the snakes out. Dylan says that there’s nothing Benjamin could say that would make him feel worse than he already does. Benjamin does say more, and Dylan shouts “Whatever” and kicks a snake. Rosie tells him that he’s not allowed to say that in this century so Dylan yells at his dad another big word. Benjamin tells him that is a good word usage. Dylan stomps off. A snake crawls across Rosie’s foot and she screams.
Later, Kelly is showing Benjamin how to do several zoo-type things. While working, Kelly says that it really isn’t any of her business, but that Dylan seems to push Benjamin’s buttons and Benjamin gives him a lot of rope. She says she didn’t appreciate the way Dylan kicked that garter snake. Benjamin says that he is a kid who just lost his mother and has had a lot of upheaval so he is trying to cut him a little slack. While they’re working, Lily spots a truck and radios the others that it is Walter Ferris, the inspector. Kelly commands several others to “contain the dark lord”. (Keep MacCready away from Ferris.) Walter Ferris (John Michael Higgins) steps out of his truck, holding a clipboard and looking ridiculously officious. Benjamin tries to stall him, saying that their inspection is months away, but Ferris says he is there for a “pop by” in preparation for the real inspection. He says that he will be taking notes, and Benjamin says he will also. They both pull out notebooks. Walter swaggers around, at one point producing an automatic measuring tape to measure boundary lines. He says they are 8 inches short, as per the new guidelines. Benjamin starts to talk up the zoo, purposely bringing up Peter MacCready. Kelly and Robin smile as Ferris says he knows MacCready. Ferris asks if they’ve drawn up an End of Life Plan for Spar, but Benjamin again doesn’t want to talk about it. MacCready is shown being barricaded in a room by two zookeepers, yelling “I’ll kill Ferris!” As Ferris drives off, MacCready runs out, chasing the truck.
Benjamin says that Ferris has given them 12 top priority items and 2 medium priority items. He asks Robin to calculate the expense. Robin says that it will be a buck fifty, maybe a buck. Benjamin looks very upset, and Rosie says she has that and that she’ll go get it. Benjamin half-jokingly says good, go get it, we’ll need it. He says he needs to process this. He walks off. Robin says that it’s too bad about the new boss - he’s just barely gotten there and he’s already thinking of quitting. Kelly asks what he means and he gestures to Benjamin and says that that is the posture of a quitting man. Benjamin is doubled over, breathing heavily. He kicks over a barrel in anger, but picks it up a moment later, making Kelly smile. He waves at them and walks off.
On another day, Benjamin is driving Dylan home, complaining that he doesn’t have time for this, asking how Dylan could be sent home from school for “moodiness”. Dylan counters that it is a sensitive school. They stop at a stop sign, and are both completely surprised to see Buster the bear walking up to their car, standing up against it and “talking” to them. Benjamin calmly asks Dylan to hand him his phone, and he calls Kelly. The zookeepers and Benjamin all grab dart guns and take off after Buster. Kelly tells him that a zookeeper with a big van will be there soon, but that it will be expensive. Benjamin says that it doesn’t matter; they can’t handle the bad publicity a breakout would garner. They head off in different directions, but Benjamin is the one who finds Buster alone, standing peacefully in an open meadow. Benjamin slowly approaches him, telling him that he doesn’t want to shoot him with a big gun. Buster slowly approaches him, swats away his gun and then roars right in Benjamin’s face, covering him in spit. Right then, one of the zookeepers shoots Buster with a dart, knocking him out. They all praise Benjamin, saying THAT’S how you talk to the animals. Benjamin says he saw Buster standing there by himself, utterly free, and he wants to make Buster’s enclosure much bigger. MacCready says sure, he’s the man who just faced down a 750 pound bear, he can have anything he wants. That night, everyone is celebrating at the Jaguar Restaurant, and Lily and Dylan walk outside, which Benjamin sees and it makes him smile. The zookeepers toast him as a local hero, and he says it was the stupidest thing he’s ever done in his life.
Dylan and Lily are lying on the roof, and she has a flashlight pointed to the sky. She tells him that she loves that he was named after Bob Dylan. They hear laughter, and Lily tells him that it is lemurs. He tells her she laughs like a lemur.
Kelly and Benjamin are walking, and Benjamin tells her that he is afraid that Lily is going to hurt Dylan. Kelly says that it is going to be the other way around. Benjamin asks why. She says that Lily is a country girl and Dylan is like some exotic creature from the city. Benjamin laughs at the idea, and says that he thought Kelly probably didn’t like Dylan because of his attitude. Kelly says that she thinks that Rosie is probably more like her mom and Dylan is like Benjamin, which is why Benjamin is so hard on him. Benjamin turns to Kelly and tells her that he thinks she’s really pretty, but hopes that she won’t be offended if he doesn’t hit on her. Kelly says she would be offended if he did. Kelly says she is a big fan of people being exactly who they are. And that it she wanted to kiss Benjamin, he couldn’t stop her. They both pause, unsure of what exactly has been said. They say good night to each other.
As Benjamin gets ready for bed, he pulls on his old sweater and feels that there is something in the pocket. He pulls out a slip for safety deposit box left by his wife. The next day, he goes to his brother’s work and tells him that Katherine left a safety deposit box and shows him what was in it. Duncan leaves with Benjamin. They are sitting in a restaurant as Duncan explains what Katherine has done. Duncan says that Katherine knew that Benjamin would make a bad financial decision, and she is still looking after him, providing him with a cushion. Duncan reads over the accompanying letter to Benjamin, a little hurt over the part that says “Listen to your heart and not your brother!!!” with three exclamation points. Benjamin says Duncan knows how much Katherine loved him. Duncan says that Benjamin should use the $84,000, which Katherine referred to as Benjamin’s circus money, and start over. He says that Benjamin has provided his children with an authentic experience and they will remember this time in their lives forever. It seems like Benjamin agrees.
Rhonda, the zoo secretary, gathers all the zookeepers together to tell them that Benjamin is broke and that she thinks he is going to sell the property for cheap, without the animals. Everyone looks upset.
Lily takes Dylan a sandwich, and says that she is sad that he is going to be leaving, and that they can still be friends. All Dylan hears from this is that he gets to go home, and he is very excited. Lily is even more distraught, asking him not to tell that she is the one who broke the news and takes off, while Dylan obliviously says she doesn’t have to leave so fast.
As Duncan and Benjamin arrive back at the zoo, Robin tells him that everyone is at the Jaguar Restaurant, upset because Rhonda, who has found another job, is telling everyone that he is going to sell. Benjamin gets up in front of the nervous zookeepers, telling them that he is an adventure junkie, but that he has never given any regard to cost. His speech makes it sound like is going to sell. But he tells them that this is his first REAL adventure because it is personal. He tells them that thanks to his Katherine, the money came through. He asks them not to give up on him and that he will give them everything he has, but that he’ll need everything that they have, too. He asks them not to give up on their adventure. They give him a round of applause, minus Duncan. Benjamin tells him it is his “circus money” and Duncan says that isn’t what he meant, and Benjamin says he knows. They start to count down the days in June on a calendar.
Rosie and Benjamin are at Home Depot. Rosie asks him why he never tells stories anymore and he tells her that it is because they are living a story right now. Rosie says she wishes Mommy knew what they were doing. He asks if she doesn’t think that Mommy knows, and she says she thinks she does and hugs him. They try to put the purchase on a Rosemoor Animal Park credit card. Benjamin says he knows that it is old, but the cashier explains that she used to love that park and went all the time until it closed. She asks if he works there. Benjamin tells her that he actually owns it. Rosie shouts “We bought a zoo!”, and that they are planning on reopening on 7/7. The cashier is very excited and tells Benjamin to mark her down for nine tickets. The entire line of people have been listening. Benjamin is clearly moved by this outpouring and sincerely thanks her.
Benjamin is installing new bulbs in Spar’s enclosure and is trying to talk Spar into taking his meds. He sees Kelly watching him talk to Spar and leaves. Later that night, Benjamin opens his laptop and tries to look through photos of his wife, but cannot.
One day Spar is stuck on a tall rock in his enclosure and won’t come down. Kelly is worried because if he doesn’t come down he won’t be able to eat or drink. Robin tells Benjamin that maybe it is Spar’s “time” and that as owner Benjamin has to approve it but Benjamin refuses to discuss it. Lily suggests making loud noises because big cats don’t like loud noises. They start to bang on pots and pans and yelling which eventually works. Benjamin, who has been yelling, keeps yelling something about how he didn’t want to drag them out here but he was desperate. He looks embarrassed and walks off. Kelly follows him and Benjamin tells her that he wants to be alone. She tells him that as much as he doesn’t want to discuss it, they need to talk about Spar. She tells him that Spar is telling them how much pain he is in with his eyes. She tells him that she has been with Spar for 13 years and she knows him. Benjamin says it doesn’t feel right, and Kelly argues that it never feels right. She gets angry and tells Benjamin that she is disappointed in him.
That night, Kelly goes to the house to help the kids with dinner and bed because Benjamin hasn’t returned home because he is “in a mood”. She gets them pizza and asks Dylan what is going on with Lily. She says that she thought he liked Lily. He tells her he does, but he guesses he doesn’t know how to talk to girls. Kelly tells him that the secret to talking to a girl is listening. She puts Rosie to bed.
Kelly is waiting on the porch with Leon the dog when Benjamin finally comes home. He sits next to her and holds her hand for a second. He then starts to talk about Katherine. He tells her how he thought moving would remind him less about her, but that Katherine is with him wherever he goes. How even May and August reminds him of her because that’s when her favorite bushes bloom. He tells how she loved red kites and blueberry pop tarts. He says that he wishes he could talk to her about how to get over her. Benjamin says that Dylan has her eyes, that he’ll see an expression on Dylan’s face that he has only ever seen on Katherine’s. That Dylan is so much like her, but with none of her lightness. He says that when you love someone that much, you can’t let them go. And that a love like that only comes once in a lifetime. Kelly says that she can let go, and pats him on his knee before she leaves.
Benjamin walks into the house and Dylan is waiting on the stairs. Dylan yells that he heard everything, and that at least he now knows why Benjamin hates him. They argue about how this isn’t Dylan’s dream and you can’t force someone’s else dream on anyone. Benjamin says that he can because it is a good dream with cool animals and great people. He tells Dylan that the line of people who care about Dylan begins and ends with him. That he’s sorry his mother died, that he’s sorry Dylan didn’t get more of a childhood, and he’s sorry that his friends never came - that he called each of them and asked them to come. He says that he doesn’t know what to do, but they have a seven year old they live with who still believes in the Easter Bunny. He asks Dylan to help. Dylan yells at him to help him. He says he never asks how he’s doing and never even taught him to shave. Dylan stomps into his room and slams the door. Benjamin goes to the door and says “You want to learn how to shave? I want to teach you how to shave! Let’s shave!” Rosie wanders out of her room and asks what he meant about the Easter Bunny.
Benjamin goes out to Spar’s enclosure, sadly asking Spar if it is time. Dylan finds his father there and joins him. Benjamin asks Dylan what happened with Lily. Dylan says he isn’t sure, that he guesses he didn’t ask her something he was supposed to. He says that he’s embarrassed if he says something and embarrassed if he doesn’t. Benjamin tells Dylan he likes it when he talks. Then he tells him: “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”
Dylan says he never knows what to say to Benjamin. Benjamin says he doesn’t either, but that maybe they should say what they want the other guy to say. Dylan: I’m sorry for dragging you to the middle of nowhere to a zoo. Benjamin: You’re a great dad. They laugh. Dylan tells his dad that Benjamin did everything he could for Spar and that Spar knows that. They both look at Spar looking at them. As they walk out, they run into Kelly and Benjamin tells Kelly that it is time. As Benjamin comes into Dylan’s room after he’s asleep, he sees that his drawings are very good and are now funny and not dark. He finds one of a tiger face.
Benjamin finally sits down at his laptop, on the floor, and looks through the pictures. He begins to cry as several of the pictures “come to life”. In one, Katherine is asleep but opens her eyes and smiles at him. In another, Katherine and Rosie and Dylan are running and dancing around Benjamin who sits on a blanket at the park. Suddenly Benjamin sees them all there dancing in the kitchen. As he gets to the last picture, he is smiling and crying. He shuts the laptop.
Benjamin puts up a remembrance plaque at the tiger enclosure of Spar “in his prime”. He tells the plaque that he knows Spar would have done the same for him. Rosie’s peacock eggs have hatched and she tells Benjamin and Dylan their names. As they go back inside, Benjamin tells Dylan he needs his artist’s eye to check out their new posters. Benjamin has used Dylan’s tiger drawing as their new logo. Dylan smiles and asks where he’s going to put the posters. Benjamin tells him: everywhere! He tells Dylan he is always his fan.
Everyone is getting ready for the inspection the next day. Even Duncan shows up to help, along with 200 pounds of haddock for Buster. Dylan watches Lily, but doesn’t seem to know what to do.
The morning of the inspection, Benjamin gives them a pep talk. He asks MacCready how he’s doing, and he seems to be doing very well, due to the fact that he has been drinking all night. Walter Ferris arrives in his truck, wearing a tie with a safari type vest this time. He is clearly nitpicking, but the inspection is going well. Kelly is outside of Solomon’s enclosure when she discovers that the gate will not lock. She uses her radio, against Benjamin’s explicit direction, to ask MacCready to meet her at Solomon’s enclosure. Of course, Ferris starts heading that way. Kelly and MacCready decide that the only way to fix it is for MacCready to go inside the enclosure while Kelly distracts Solomon. She manages to do so but then Solomon turns to MacCready. MacCready tells Solomon that he doesn’t want to eat him because he is full of Scotch and bitterness and impure thoughts. He fixes the enclosure just in time for Ferris’s arrival.
Finally, Ferris is ready to sign off (or not sign off) when Rosie pipes up with “Hey mister, everyone says you’re a dick. I don’t know what that means, but I don’t think it’s true.” Ferris glares at everyone and then circles something. He tells him he doesn’t think it will work… but they’ve been approved. Everyone cheers and Ferris leaves, declining Benjamin’s invitation to join them on opening day because he doesn’t fraternize.
Duncan is sitting with Benjamin at the Jaguar Restaurant and tells him that he likes the animals but he loves the humans. Benjamin worries what will happen if no one shows up. Duncan tells him not to worry; that if you are doing something for the right reason nothing can stop it.
The next day it is pouring rain and the forecast says it will be rainy all week, and that it is set to be the rainiest summer in 100 years. Dylan is walking through the rain when he sees that the light-up letters on the Jaguar Restaurant have been changed to read “If You Love Me Let Me Know”. He runs to Lily’s house, muttering to himself “twenty seconds”. He knocks on her window. She opens it and he says “Am I nuts to say that I missed you crazy a lot?” She shakes her head no. He tells her that he wasn’t named for Bob Dylan, he was named after a dog named Dylan. She tells him she doesn’t care. She tells him she’s sorry about the rain. He says “No, I love it, and I love your hair, and I love you” and they hug through the window.
When Benjamin awakens on July 7th, opening day, the sun is shining. The entire staff, including Duncan and Crystal the monkey are wearing uniforms with Dylan’s picture as the logo. Benjamin tells him that they know he isn’t one for making speeches, that Katherine did that sort of thing and he took the credit. So he just thanks them for going on this adventure with him, but that the adventure isn’t over; everything after is just a bonus. MacCready cuts the ribbon and they declare it a zoo. They stand there waiting. Someone asks what time it is, it is 10:02. Dylan says something is wrong. Benjamin gets philosophical, saying maybe this is how it is supposed to be. But Dylan insists something is wrong, taking off down the road. Sure enough, a tree has fallen in the storm and is blocking the road. They step onto it and are shocked to see that there are cars and people standing next to the cars for as far as they can see. Benjamin tells them they are open and the staff helps everyone over.
Later, people are shown enjoying the zoo, and the whole staff is giving tours, from Kelly at the tiger enclosure to Rosie and her baby peacocks. The real estate agent is there with his family. A woman approaches Benjamin, whom he recognizes as “Home Depot” and she is there with her family and tells him “Well done.”
Kelly rushes into the ticket booth looking for more tickets and Benjamin joins her, saying he ordered more. They are both bent over and Kelly tells him that she has a crush on him and she just can’t get a hold on it. She kisses him. He kisses her back. They congratulate each other on their zoo success. She tells him that if they are standing near each other on New Year’s she’d like to kiss him again. He tells her he looks forward to New Year’s.
Benjamin is taking pictures with Rosie and Dylan, joking and laughing and being a happy family. Kelly and Lily are watching from a bench. Lily asks Kelly if she had to pick, people or animals, which would she pick? Kelly just smiles at the Mee family and Lily laughs and says she’d pick people, too.
The sky is full of children flying red kites and Benjamin looks up at it. Kelly is helping Rosie with one and Benjamin looks at her and they share a smile.
Benjamin and Duncan stand together, watching people enjoy the zoo. Benjamin says “We bought a zoo!” and Duncan agrees that they did do that. Benjamin asks if Duncan remembers the advice he gave him when they were younger about needing twenty seconds. Duncan says that he does.
Benjamin takes Dylan and Rosie to Little Dom’s. He shows them the table where Katherine was sitting when they first met. He tells them that this was the moment when both of them became possibilities. Rosie says that she’s glad he’s telling stories again. Benjamin tells them that this is the very beginning of their story, that this is the story before the story. He runs outside, says that that is where he was standing the first time he ever saw Katherine. He says he thought wow, she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. He didn’t know what to do because he had never talked to a stranger like that before, but that all he needed was twenty seconds. He sets the timer on his watch. He comes into the restaurant, saying that he almost lost his nerve now that he was close enough to touch her, but he still had 15 seconds of bravery left. He says that he said “Excuse me” and she turned to him, and then all three of them see Katherine sitting there, looking at them. Dylan says “Hello, Mom” and Rosie says “Hi, Mommy”. Benjamin says he said to her “Why would a woman who looks like you ever talk to man like me?” And we see Katherine as she smiles and says “Why not?”
After the screen goes black, a postscript says that the Rosemoor Animal Park is a real zoo in England, owned by the Mee family. They are open year round. Benjamin and his two children still live there. Next year, they would like to add giraffes.
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