Movie ReviewsRating: 1.5 of 5 yaps
“Zookeeper” is the kind of movie that the general public eats up and, I daresay, the sort of movie over which critics absorb the most beatings.
“How can you dislike such a harmless movie?” people ask. “It’s so…so…CUTE.”
Let me mention, in case I haven’t before, one of my pet peeves in analyzing a movie: terming it “cute.” It’s typically reserved for kids’ movies or animated films and is the stock answer when someone feels guilty slamming such oft-horrible movies. So they dismiss both it and truly high-quality films by lumping them all together with this single, all-encompassing adjective that means virtually nothing.
So let me say: “Zookeeper” is a terrible movie. There’s nothing particularly offensive about it; I don’t hate it with the passion that I did, say, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” (or “Dark of the Moon,” for that matter), but there is absolutely zero effort put into making a quality film.
“Zookeeper” is simple formula: Kevin James is a likeable fella whose movies make decent coin, so someone developed a cutesy family-type film for him, throwing in some talking animals with some sort of half-baked romance hoping it’ll be a solid moneymaker for the studio.
And that’s literally as much creativity as went into the making of this film.
And sure, James is a likeable enough schlub, playing a zookeeper named Griffin still holding a candle for the hottie (Leslie Bibb, of the “Iron Man” films) who dumped him five years ago. She can’t decide whether she still likes him, but she dumped him despite the crazily romantic way he proposed to her because he condescends to be a … zookeeper — which is a perfectly noble, even cool and interesting, profession if not a lucrative one.
Meanwhile, there’s another hottie in his life — the zoo’s veterinarian (the mega-hot Rosario Dawson), who has a bit of a thing for Griffin but because she’s not blonde … er, wears glasses … er, doesn’t wear overtly sexy clothing, Griffin doesn’t notice her.
So what’s a guy to do? Well, talk to the zoo animals, of course, who decide enough is enough. They reveal their big secret to Griffin — that they not only can communicate verbally, but speak perfect English — in order to give him love advice.
Because they’re animals, they tell him to do things like pee on trees, puff out his chest, make loud, guttural noises, and basically establish himself as the alpha male. As you can imagine, none of this works, nor is any of it particularly imaginative or funny. Then again, that doesn’t really matter because audiences are so conditioned to politely laugh at “comedy” that they’ll laugh to avoid admitting they’re watching the very same crappy Disney Channel jokes they laughed at 15 years ago.
Of course, there are some celebrity voices for the animals. Nick Nolte plays an emotionally detached gorilla who conjures the only thing resembling a real relationship in the film; Sylvester Stallone of all people voices a lion; and James’ pal Adam Sandler voices the monkey who unlocks the animals’ cages at night and allows them to escape. Cher, Judd Apatow, Faizon Love, Maya Rudolph and Don Rickles are among the others providing voices, though they’re mostly unrecognizable.
Providing their faces as well as their pipes are actors like Ken Jeong (the “Hangover” films), Donnie Wahlberg (yes, that Donnie Wahlberg, NKOTB fans), and Joe Rogan (of “Fear Factor” fame). I frankly don’t care enough to speak beyond mentioning their performances, considering none of them (or anyone else in the film) cared enough to put effort into a quality product. (Though, to be fair, this is not entirely their fault; no one from the producers to the crew appeared to put much effort into this film.)
This is the sort of film that insults the intelligence of its intended audience. Because that audience is young children, the studio assumes it need not make something unique, imaginative or interesting. Parents will, at best, appreciate that the bland humor isn’t too bawdy or risque and, at worst, throw out that “C” word.