Film Review: Zookeeper

Zookeeper PosterDirected by Frank Coraci
Starring Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb & Nick Nolte

I quite like King of Queens, mainly for the hysterical Jerry Stiller and the ever-changing shape of Leah Remini’s bottom, but Kevin James was a likeable leading man, never the funniest thing about the show but easy enough to watch. His movie career has proven very difficult to watch, his work with Adam Sandler has proven to be distasteful (I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry) and when he tried to work with a more respectable crowd earlier this year with The Dilemma, the results were most unfortunate. Once again James is working with the Adam Sandler production team Happy Madison to produce kid friendly fodder (just like the disastrous Paul Blart: Mall Cop). James portrays Griffen, a zookeeper who is not too great with the ladies but is good at his job. The animals decide that since they like him so much they will break their biggest rule and talk to Griffen, giving him advice on how to court a lady.

After seeing Perfect Sense earlier this year, I doubted there would be a worse film released in 2011, then along came Zookeeper. This film has so few redeeming qualities it hurts. Lets start with the biggest problem, the talking animals; the film is being promoted as a talking animal picture but after watching it, all the animals felt like an after thought, almost as if the producers had a comedy about a man who was having trouble with women and said “I know, lets throw some talking animals in there, you know, for kids!” This tactic doesn’t work as the film is still largely about an insecure man trying to woo back his ex-girlfriend (Bibb), not really a topic I can see many children being excited about. The animals are voiced by celebrities such as Adam Sandler, Cher, Sylvester Stallone and Nick Nolte. It seems that only Nolte seems to be trying in his role, bringing across his gruff nature to his gorilla, all the others are just playing obnoxious versions of themselves, and how sad it is to see Maya Rudolph who was so lovely in Bridesmaids be reduced to the most annoying character in the film, a singing/rapping hip hop giraffe. The CGI on the animals looks cheap and mixing it with puppetry for the gorilla just makes it look even stranger. This is a clear indication that the filmmakers really didn’t know what they wanted to do with this film.

The human character are pretty pathetic too, James is just not likeable in the lead; he’s weak, easily manipulated and uncharismatic (a wolf advises him to mark his territory so he starts urinating in public, that’s not funny or sweet, it’s just disturbing), it’s a wonder how he has both Leslie Bibb and Rosario Dawson lusting after him, but it’s a movie, stuff like that sort of happens I guess. Bibb is not an actress I’ve ever found to be remarkably entertaining, she tries her best with comedy but is never someone who can light up the screen, Dawson on the other hand is a remarkably talented actress stuck slumming it here, she’s given very little to do other than look on in confusion as James performs his pratfalls. Dawson’s inclusion leads to the nicest scene in the film where she and James dance at a wedding using curtains as accessories, the scene is genuinely sweet and a lovely set piece, it is a shame that it has been wasted in such an abysmal film.

This is a truly horrid film, it has no grasp on what audience it is aimed at, no likeable characters, the plot is a terrible concoction of children’s fantasy and a romantic comedy and the script is about as lifeless as Leah Remini’s post King of Queens career. This is just another awful offering from the Happy Madison staple that proves once again that Adam Sandler and his buddies really aren’t funny any more. With this and Mr. Popper’s Penguins being the choices for live action family films this summer, one might even start missing the dull Night at the Museum movies, at least those had one or two charming moments, this film has one charming moment which is ruined by the fact that it is in this film. This is easily the worst film of 2011 so far.


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