By Caitlyn Collins | July 7, 2011
Writers: Nick Bakay, Rock Rueben, Kevin James, Jay Scherick, David Ronn
Starring: Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb, Ken Jeong
Voices: Nick Nolte, Adam Sandler, Sylvester Stallone, Cher, Maya Rudolph, Jon Favreau, Judd Apatow
It’s an intriguing idea, the possibility that animals not only listen but truly understand what we are saying. It’s even more fascinating to contemplate their ability to speak back to us. I think the majority of them would tell us humans that we need to be more respectful of them, ourselves and the planet we all share. This, however, is not even close to what concerns the animals of Franklin Park Zoo in Zookeeper. Instead they concern themselves with the love life of Griffin Keyes, the head zookeeper. Kevin James, who portrays Keyes, plays the bumbling idiot well as it seems to be the only role he is able to fill.
The film opens with a romantic beach scene with Griffin and his girlfriend Stephanie (Leslie Bibb) riding horseback at sunset. He proposes to her and she responds with a big fat, NO. He’s a mere zookeeper after all, and she’s a vapid narcissist, which she remains throughout the entire film. Aside from her beauty, Stephanie does not seem to have a single redeeming quality. She is the stereotypical materialistic female only interested in the latest and greatest in fashion and design as wells as the means to obtain the objects of her desire. She has absolutely nothing interesting let alone nice to say. Juxtaposed with Stephanie is, surprise!, the smart and substantial Kate (Rosario Dawson).
Dawson delivers the least irritating and most natural performance though I wouldn’t characterize it as strong. That’s mostly due to the fact that nothing about Zookeeper is strong. Next would be the few scenes with Ken Jeong who plays Venom, the zoo’s reptile handler. He convincingly plays a creepy snake handler (although it is difficult to see him as anything other than the crazy guy from the Hangover films). Some of the funniest bits of the film involve the introduction of the various animals with their celebrity voices. The animals themselves aren’t funny. The hilarious part is how ridiculous most of them sound given the chosen actors and actresses.
Bernie the Gorilla (voiced by Nick Nolte), who has been wrongly isolated, finally opens up to Griffin who has worked hard to earn Bernie’s trust. Once all the animals reveal they can talk, Griffin and Bernie’s bond strengthens. Bernie’s birthday occurs and Griffin takes him to T.G.I. Friday’s as Bernie is incredibly curious about the place. Nick Nolte voicing a gorilla is laugh out loud funny to me. As is the idea of T.G.I. Friday’s being a place anyone in their right mind would want to go to, especially a gorilla.
Sylvester Stallone as Joe the Lion also produced a chuckle, but not because he was funny. Somehow Cher as Janet the Lion fit the bill. Donald the Monkey, voiced by Adam Sandler (also a producer), had a completely grating voice. I’m sure monkeys everywhere would be offended.
Given that this film is completely formulaic with some talking animals mixed in, I’m sure you can figure out what happens. Or better yet, save your money and see something else.