Genre: Talking animal comedy.
The pitch: Griffin Keyes (Kevin James) is pretty good at his job as senior zookeeper. Loved by his co-workers and the animals he attends to. Unfortunately his girlfriend, Stephanie (Leslie Bibb) doesn't share the same sentiment. He strikes out so badly the animals of the zoo break their code of silence to help him win her affections. Think Hitch meets Dr. Doolittle 3.
Money shot: Griffin takes his BFF, Bernie (voiced by Nick Nolte), a silverback gorilla out for a night on the town at the place he's always wanted to go to: TGI Friday's. The montage of what happens between man bonds with his primate buddy is more WTF cute than it is funny.
Best line: Barry the monkey (Adam Sandler) breaks down "Umm, well let's see, today is Tuesday - so umm ... since forever."
Worst line: Griffin shares thoughts of leaving his job with zoo vet friend Kate (Rosario Dawson) who replies, "The animals love you, you're like the friggin' hippo whisperer."
Best crotch reference: Leave it to a couple of bears (no, not that kind) to drop a man package reference. When Jerome (Jon Favreau) and Bruce (Faizon Love) try to give Griffin tips on how to walk with confidence, they tell him to show off his "Pudding cup," to walk with his crotch protruding.
Product placement: Aside from a blatant reference to TGI Friday's, when Griffin initially freaks out after discovering his animal charges can talk, he runs home and Sabrina the Teenage Witch is playing on the television. Stephanie sips Red Bull while doing yoga in their apartment.
Zoo-ology: The film takes place mostly at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, MA. While there's no lonely single Gorilla named Bernie there, you will find a band of gorillas led by the male name Kit. They also have a lion named Christopher. The zoo features over 220 species of animals, but Zookeper features only 11, including an overly opinionated crow (Jim Breuer) that's not on exhibit.
Bill Nighy is not a gorilla - but Bernie the gorilla sure looks like him. I'm just saying.
Number of Kevin James signature pratfalls: 8
Number of times people are dumped/rejected: 3
Number of kisses: 1
Number of animals hurt injured in this film: Seriously people - none.
Bottom Line: Typically in a film featuring intelligent or talking animals there's some balance between the overall story and the amount of interaction held with humans. In those instances, the creatures - no matter the species, nudge the story along with comedic beats and neat little tricks that create the "oohs" and "ahhs" that keep you engaged. It's like watching a circus act sandwiched between the story's many acts. This is not the case in Zookeeper. Instead of a four-legged supporting cast, the animals simply run amuck. We spend too much time on the neurotic rants and ridiculous plots of the zoo animals and not enough interaction where it makes any sense to the story. Too much time is spent on transforming Griffin into an alpha male and not enough on the moral of the story: that is he's fine and happier just the way he is. This misstep is a costly error that Director, Frank Coraci tries desperately to patch with animal one-liners and site gag jokes that never evolve the story beyond its been-there-done-that premise. Rosario Dawson's character Kate is almost superfluous from the time she's introduced all the way to the film's sappy and predictable end. That can be said for other could-have-been relevant characters like Viper (Ken Jeong), the idiosyncratic, sex obsessed reptile wrangler for the zoo or Shane (Donnie Wahlberg) the dirty and shifty primate caretaker. At some point you keep asking yourself why are they even there.
If kids are young - or you are stoned enough, you'll get a couple of chuckles from James' awkward tumbles and Sandler's, thumb and poop jokes. Overall, no matter how many adorable animals you add into Zookeeper's crazy mix, you're in for one very bad experience.
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