Directed by: Frank Coraci Cast: Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb, Sylvester Stallone, Cher, Adam Sandler, Maya Rudolph, Judd Apatow, Jon Favreau, Nick Nolte Running Time: 1 hr 44 mins Rating: PG Due Out: Oct 11, 2011
PLOT: After a friendly zookeeper (James) threatens to leave his job in order to impress his dream lady, a group of zoo animals break their code of silence to help him nab his mate.
WHO'S IT FOR?: The content of this movie is safe for “families,” but no one’s brain cells will be spared. Even though it takes place at a zoo, no one’s going to learn anything. Except that animals are useless self-esteem coaches.
A sarcastic pat on the back to Zookeeper for avoiding a plethora of fart jokes and getting Kevin James to shave his Blart mustache. Unfortunately, it took five writers to come up with this entire script, which could have been written by the fantasies of a nine-year-old and the romantic understandings of that kid’s eleven-year-old sister. Five writers. Five human brains to conjure up a monkey-brained talking animal romp that hopes to cash in on the Hollywood math that Fat Guy + Talking Animals = Gold. In some lights, this could be considered “inoffensive,” but that’s a wrong concept. This movie is offensive in other ways, with or without the consideration of its bathroom humor (of which there is still some).
For starters, no movie that sells whatever increment of soul it may hold on to to advertise a restaurant should be forgiven with just a shoulder shrug (see: Mac and Me, The Day the Earth Stood Still, etc.) The shameless product placement of T.G.I.Friday’s in this movie is disgusting. As if Zookeeper wasn’t already stirred carefully to be a popcorn cocktail, it spends an entire scene selling T.G.I.Friday’s as the ultimate night destination for grounded working men and zoo animals alike. Bernie the Gorilla eats thirty oranges, Griffin plays guitar, and an army of dumb people believe that Bernie’s wearing a costume (even when the moment edges awkwardly on notions of bestiality). The gorilla voiced by Nick Nolte even uses the word “incredible” to describe T.G.I.Friday’s. This isn’t cute, this isn’t charming, and it isn’t ironically enjoyable. It’s pathetic. A moment of silence for the state of Nick Nolte’s career. His mugshot is funnier than anything he does here.
Zookeeper’s sense of humor is frustratingly bland, in a story that defies any opportunity to think on its own. The movies jokes are more crushed and lifeless than roadkill, whether delivered by human beings or sassy zoo animals. James falls a lot, a tough lion is emasculated by his mate, and when the animals get their paws on a cell phone, they try to order a pizza. (Note: Pizza is always ordered by creatures foreign to technology. Unless they go to McDonald’s.) Here is when something as lame as a smoking monkey is actually welcome – it would at least stir something up in the movie.
In a movie with a message of “Be yourself,” Zookeeper is relatively indifferent to that philosophy. Griffin only learns to stick with himself after the coaching of his animal friends ultimately fails – whether they’re too stupid to realize it, they too, are trying to change him into someone he is not. Half of the movie is James listening to talking animals and doing whatever they recommend, which makes him into the biggest tool in the animal kingdom, before his ex-girlfriend practically forces him to change.
Unfortunately, Zookeeper is not just a tool expo for the milquetoast James, but for everyone else on-screen, or those hiding behind a vocal booth. No character or actor seems to be able to stand out or stand against the ugly decisions of Zookeeper. They go along with whatever is thrown at them, tossing their potential out the window.
As believable as the talking zoo creatures may be with special effects, there’s nothing special or new about this movie. This is a redundant puppet show.
MOVIE SCORE: 3/10
Deleted Scenes The Cast of Zookeeper Behind the Stunts Be the Bear Laughing is Contagious - Blooper Reel Bernie the Gorilla The Furry Co-stars Creating the Visual Effects - The Animals