I am honestly of the opinion that Kevin James can be very funny (see TV’s The King Of Queens) and that he will have a respectable film role in due time. But I will tell you now, “Zookeeper” is NOT that movie. This 100-minute waste of time not only commits the heinous crime of being a laugh-free comedy, but it is not even all that interesting. Even in other Happy Madison film productions like “Just Go With It,” they are at a level of bad where you want to see where they go. This is purely unexciting. I know Kevin James and Adam Sandler are collaborative buddies, but he needs to get out of this game quick. Especially when “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” is the highlight of your filmography (which is incidentally a lot better than everything else).
James is cast as a kind-hearted but socially clumsy zookeeper (no duh) named Griffin whose profession blew his chances at marriage with Stephanie (Leslie Bibb), an attractive girl with a contrarily vacuous personality. But five years after his extravagant marriage proposal scheme, he wants to win back the girl’s affection somehow. Lucky for him, it turns out that the wide selection of animals in the zoo can talk AND give him some pointers in cultivating a relationship. Some of those in captivity include a lion and lioness (Sylvester Stallone and Cher), a capuchin monkey (Sandler channeling Gilbert Gottfried), a giraffe (Maya Rudolph), a wolf (Bas Rutten) and an introverted gorilla (Nick Nolte), the last of which will become Griffin’s best friend over a wild night at T.G.I. Friday’s. And the advice they give prompts such splendid scenes as when Griffin construes instructions on marking his territory a bit too literally by urinating into a potted plant in a public restaurant.
The jokes and gags come in two different but uniformly unfunny varieties: 1) “Ho ho, it’s so funny that Kevin James is a clumsy, awkward fat man” and 2) “Ho ho, those zoo animals are just as savvy as the normal American teenager.” Isn’t that just precious? The only smirk the film got out of me had nothing to do with the writing, but with the casting. I seem to notice that Hollywood loves giving Nick Nolte voice roles where he plays the most threatening of mammals, such as the menacing bear in the animated feature “Over The Hedge.” I say good call on casting directors’ Justine Baddeley and Kimberly Davis’s part. If only the script supervisors were as qualified.
If I were to tell you that Griffin works at the zoo with a kind and attractive women played by Rosario Dawson, would you be able to speculate how everything ultimately wraps up?
All the while, I just sat there completely stone-faced, waiting for the experience to finally end, which took much too long if you ask me. The story is wholly predictable with not even the slightest hiccup. The humor is of the lowest common denominator and there has got to be a less humiliating way for Kevin James to pay the bills. “Zookeeper” is the kind of movie that, I’d imagine, will only interest young children, and very young ones at that. But if you ask me, this should be avoided at all costs.
Note: If you felt the same way I did about “Furry Vengeance’s” wince-inducingly awful version of “Insane In The Brain” performed by cute little animals played over the end credits, you won’t want to stick around for the animal kingdom’s rendition of “More Than A Feeling” by Boston. I am doing the world a service by saying this.