The Gist: When a kindly zookeeper crosses paths with an ex-girlfriend who rejected his marriage proposal, the zoo animals break their silence in an attempt to help him “get the girl” without having to leave his job.
First Impressions: Although it’s easy to see where the plot will lead, Kevin James has proven time and again that he can bring the laughs. Provided an attempt at making a good comedy is detected, the audience should be able to forgive the unrealistic (animals talking, not so good-looking man ends up with gorgeous female, etc.). Not expecting much but hoping for the best.
In a film that seems to be stuck in deciding whether it aims for adult- or child-filled audiences, Zookeeper is a fun watch though misses the mark on anything extraordinary.
Lead zookeeper, Griffin Keyes (Kevin James), continually reflects on a time five years ago when his marriage proposal (including a rented horse, Mariachi band and fireworks) was brutally rejected by his superficial girlfriend Stephanie (Leslie Bibb) who only saw him as a failure. As he prepares for his brother’s wedding, Griffin faces the possibility of being with Stephanie again and is aided by the very animals he tends when they break their silence to teach him how to be an alpha male. Griffin gets to know the animals more than he ever thought he would, and also enlists the help of fellow zoo worker, Kate (Rosario Dawson), in the hopes of making Stephanie jealous.
Here is another film where the animals, as well as the voices behind them, clearly stole the show. Sylvester Stallone and Cher as the bickering lion couple, Joe and Janet, perfectly displayed a picture of a long married couple. Janet embarrasses Joe in front of the other animals, revealing that he unproductively sleeps 20 hours a day, and Joe claims that Janet’s mother “ruined” her. Adam Sandler cleverly voice Donald the monkey, suggesting Griffin throw poop at Stephanie to win her heart, and boasting to the others of his opposable thumb.
In comparison, much of the human characters lacked prior thought or depth. Sure the audience feels for Griffin, and James did his best garnering sympathy, but Stephanie is a character who merely goes with the flow, without any motivation for her choices. The audience can’t even really hate her by the end. While Dawson was probably the one solid choice made by casting (really has this girl ever given a bad performance?) Kate also possessed little direction as any interest in Griffin was reserved for the second half.
The physical comedy was a bit overdone, leading one to believe the movie is more for children. When Griffin tries to jump over an empty moat in the lion’s den, where technically a lion shouldn’t be able to jump, he obviously misses reaching the other side. The entire bike chase scene where Griffin races Stephanie’s other ex-boyfriend, Gale (Joe Rogan), also served as a pointless filler scene.
It was a nice gesture that the moral of not harming animals had been included in the film, though it did not escalate into much. Again this may be more for children, but it is nothing new to know that throwing a Red Bull can into an exhibit can lead to the animal choking on it, and that it’s never nice to intentionally injure animals.
Zookeeper is definitely a good film to take the kids to, with a decent chuckle here and there, but nothing out of the usual cluster of films cranked out each year such as Madagascar, Doctor Dolittle, and Alvin and the Chipmunks.
One Positive Critique: Nick Nolte may not always have his head on straight, but he served as a perfect match for the Bernie the gorilla. That scratchy voice and the way he delivered lines made up for the obviously unreal looking animal.
When was the last time you paid under $10 per ticket? This film was seen at AMC Owings Mills for only $6!