PLOT: After a marriage proposal gone wrong, Griffin Keyes decides to put his entire life into what he loves, his animals and his job at the zoo. Years later however, the woman of his dreams returns to tempt him away from his beloved animals. These crazy critters – not realizing that Griffin’s dream girl wants him out of the zoo game – decide to give their zookeeper some “inspired” love advice.
REVIEW: Many people really like Kevin James. In fact, there is sure to be an audience for his latest bout of wackiness in ZOOKEEPER. See Kevin fall down, see Kevin bang his head and fall down, see Kevin make a run for it and fall down, it’s all here. Yet here is the thing, Mr. James is a charming and talented actor. It’s not entirely hard to believe that moviegoers would find something in him to root for. However, his latest comedy is painfully awkward as it attempts to blend romantic comedy, talking animal and heartwarming story all into one.
The basic story involves Griffin Keyes (Kevin James), a man who loves his job – he works at the zoo. He has a hot girlfriend named Stephanie (Leslie Bibb) who wants her man to have a real career, far away from the animals. As highlighted in the movie trailer, Stephanie is so ashamed of Griffin’s job that she coldly turns down his marriage proposal. She moves on (sort of?) and he continues his zookeeper life taking care of a giraffe (Maya Rudolph), a lion (Sylvester Stallone), his lioness (Cher) and a wisecracking monkey named Donald (Adam Sandler). Years later when Griffin starts questioning himself after Stephanie comes around again, the animals decide they should break their silence and speak to Griffin. You see, the furry creatures have always been able to talk, but they are not allowed to speak to humans. When the animals do share their knowledge with lovelorn Griffin, Donald always suggests throwing poo. Frankly, having a monkey throw poo on you for an hour and a half would probably be more entertaining than this flick.
Oh yeah, there are other sub-plots including a really cool chick named Kate (Rosario Dawson) who seems to have a thing for Griffin. Come on, any other guy would have told Stephanie to f*ck off and immediately run away with the stunningly attractive and incredibly smart Kate any day. There is also a strange bit involving an abusive zoo employee (Donnie Wahlberg) who mistreats the animals. This bit of seriousness is just plain unnecessary on every level. The script (with 5 credited screenwriters) struggles to make much of this dung hill entertaining. It hints at screwball comedy then splashes around a bit in romantic territory and of course it remains a talking animal flick.
It’s hard to say who is really at fault here. Director Frank Coraci has managed to give Adam Sandler two of his more enjoyable features especially THE WEDDING SINGER, and he seems to do the best he can with this script. The story is so jumbled and unsure of whom its audience is to the point that even the younger viewers will feel insulted. It is almost certain that ZOOKEEPER was a mess and somebody tried to clean it up. Certain story lines, particularly Wahlberg’s, feel out of place and create a truly uneven feature. There is very little balance between the ridiculous and the downright moronic. Children may find the talking animals captivating, but they will certainly be bored by some of the more romantic moments. This clichéd film feels like a bunch of bad to decent ideas thrown together with the hopes that they could get someone like James. He attempts with all his strength to keep the audience invested.
ZOOKEEPER is a bad film, and not necessarily in a “so bad its good way.” The laughs are few and far between and the obvious “lesson” learned is a tedious one. Sure the cast is filled with a ton of great names including Sly Stallone and Cher who add a little spark. And yes, somehow James and Dawson make for an entertaining couple, even in the midst of a dumbfounded disaster such as this. Poor editing, an awful script and too many moments of dreadful CGI, all of this makes ZOOKEEPER one of the most pathetic attempts at a family film in quite awhile. Can somebody please give Kevin James a good script? The guy deserves better than this.