Griffin Keyes (Kevin James), the zookeeper at Franklin Park Zoo genuinely loves the animals that he cares for and is much more at home with the lions (Cher, Sylvester Stallone), the gorilla (Nick Nolte), the giraffe (May Rudolph), the monkey (Adam Sandler), the elephant (Judd Appatow) and the bears (Jon Favreau, Faizon Love) than when trying to impress his former girlfriend Stephanie (Leslie Bibb), who has just reappeared into his life. Believing he needs to find a more glamorous job for her sake, Griffin is about to leave the zoo, when the animals break their code of silence and start to talk in a bid to teach the zookeeper the art of courtship.
Review by Louise Keller:
When you hear the giraffe yelling May Day, right at the beginning of Zookeeper, take heed; it's a distress signal that we are about to witness a disaster.
A gorilla slow dancing with a pretty blonde in a bar at Happy Hour, a monkey ordering meat-lovers pizza by phone and an elephant using hypnotic powers swinging its trunk saying 'You remember nothing' are a few hard-to-forget moments in this inane and charmless comedy that is embarrassing, not funny. To stick with the film's theme, let me ask you a simple question: if there was a pile of dung sitting in your path, would you walk into it or avoid it? Likewise this film.
When Kevin James won the girl in Hitch (2005) by doing ridiculous things, it was amusing and charming because the humour bubbled along as part of the storyline. Additionally, the casting was spot on, pairing the chubby James with Amber Valetta's eccentric heiress Allegra, while Will Smith kept things buzzing with Eva Mendes. But here, the script (credited to five screenwriters including James) pits the blonde leggy bimbo Stephanie (Leslie Bibb) and the intelligent, beautiful brunette Kate (Rosario Dawson) with the clumsy, fat, animal-loving dude, Griffin (James), whose pratfalls and attempts at humour are equally clumsy.
The notion is that the animals in the zoo where Griffin works as zookeeper finally discard their Code of Silence and speak to him, to show him how to get the girl - by snorting, roaring, digging, being predatory, and peeing against a tree (or in a pot plant). Swinging on curtains and smashing into an ice carving at a wedding is also on the cards. Most of the humour falls painfully flat. I did laugh, however, when Griffin takes the gorilla from the zoo (wearing a T shirt) to a diner. He covers by saying they've come from a fancy dress party and the waitress, impressed by the realism, asks if she could try on the gorilla head. The lively banter between the two bears is also mildly amusing.
It's a waste of the extraordinary line-up of voice talent that includes Cher, Adam Sandler, Sylvester Stallone, Nick Nolte, Judd Apatow and Jon Favreau, while director Frank Coraci, who directed The Wedding Singer obviously got lost in the jungle.
First published in the Sun-Herald
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CAST: Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb
VOICES: Adam Sandler, Sylvester Stallone, Judd Apatow, Cher, Maya Rudolph, Don Rickles
PRODUCER: Todd Garner, Jack Giarraputo, Kevin James, Adam Sandler
DIRECTOR: Franki Coraci
SCRIPT: Nick Nakay, Rock Reuben, Kevin James, Jay Scherick, David Ronn
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Michael Barrett
EDITOR: Scott Hill
MUSIC: Rupert Gregson-Williams
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kirk M. Petrucelli
RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 8, 2011