Zookeeper opens as Griffin (Kevin James) is proposing to his girlfriend Leslie. She turns him down claiming that she wants more in her man than a zookeeper. Flash forward five years and Griffin is now lead zookeeper and the animals love him. They love him so much in fact that when Leslie reenters his life and he is offered another job the animals break their code of silence and speak to Griffin. They all offer their advice on how to win Leslie’s affections hoping that it will convince Griffin to stay. What the animals don’t know is what a hard case Griffin is.
The opening of the movie, while not excellent, is charming enough. The movie takes a serious downturn when the animals start speaking and unfortunately they start speaking shortly after the movie begins. Every animal that speaks in the movie is decidedly unfunny, offers nothing to push the story forward, and just completely drains the movie of life. The voice talents of Seth Rogen, Sylvester Stallone, and Adam Sandler are wasted. In fact Sandler’s voice of a monkey in the movie was grating and sounded like he was mocking the film every time he spoke.
Kevin James does his best with the material he’s presented. James is one of the most likable actors in Hollywood. He just has a certain charm about him and seems to wear his heart on his sleeve. If he made wiser choices with the movie he selects I imagine he could become a star along the lines of Tom Hanks, who also started out in comedy and had the same sort of likability factor. The fact that this horrible movie will make a lot of money at the box office is a testament to how much audiences like James (and perhaps talking animal movies for some reason).
The story has some interesting sub plots in it, in particular the relationship that develops between Griffin and the Gorilla. Unfortunately this subplot is killed by the insertion of bad comedy and the fact the gorilla speaks. If the movie actually took it’s material seriously it may have been a decent film. But the mere fact the movie had five credited screenwriters and ten producers speaks to how muddle the original story most likely became. It’s the sad story of too many cooks in the kitchen turning out something that really doesn’t have any flow or cohesion.
Which brings me to the real question, what audience was this movie made for? The talking animals suggest children, but the romantic plot and the subplot of mistreated zoo animals really is not kid movie material. However the movie’s comedic style is not really geared toward adults either. Frank Coraci, who directs many of Adam Sandler’s films, seems lost in the mess as well. The further the film moved along the more cliques get shoehorned into the story making it almost impossible to have any sort of pacing or logical rhythm.
In a summer packed with funny comedies, Zookeeper fails to make the grade. Sure it is one of the few comedies that aims for a PG rating instead of the hard R, but it fails to deliver laughs. Kevin James was the one factor that stopped this film from becoming a complete train wreck, but I sure hope he starts picking better films, in the right film he will shine. As for Zookeeper don’t pay money to see it, if you are curious wait for it to pop up on cable TV in the future, then you can leave when you get bored and you’ll save your money.
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Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.
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