- Rated PG
- Buy the BD
All photos © Columbia Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
here’s been a long-running debate in the film critic community over whether kids’ movies should be cut some slack when reviewing them. But when companies like Pixar consistently release great films with engaging stories, memorable characters and clever humor, it’s hard to take that argument seriously. So yes, while “Zookeeper” may have been designed more with kids in mind, it doesn’t exactly excuse it from being terrible. Just how terrible, you ask? Well, it’s definitely as bad as “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” but at least that movie was sort of fun to ridicule. "Zookeeper," however, can't even afford you that simplest of pleasures.
Kevin James stars as Griffin Keyes, a down-on-his-luck zookeeper who’s dumped by his materialistic girlfriend Stephanie (Leslie Bibb) on the night he stages an extravagant marriage proposal. Five years later, Griffin has been promoted to head zookeeper, but he still isn’t over the heartbreak of Stephanie, which makes running into her at his brother’s engagement party that much more difficult. But Stephanie seems to believe that Griffin has potential if he’d just quit his job at the zoo, and after the animals overhear her declaration, they decide to help Griffin get her back, even if it means losing the kindest zookeeper they’ve ever had. When their plan doesn’t work, however, they agree to break their vow of silence in order to communicate with Griffin. But even with the help of the entire animal kingdom, Griffin faces competition from Stephanie’s jerk boyfriend, Gale (Joe Rogan).
It’s never a good sign when you see multiple names credited as screenwriters (the general rule should be no more than two), and “Zookeeper” has five, including James himself. That alone will tell you all you need to know about the movie, which starts out pretty harmless in its silliness and then becomes downright absurd once the animals start talking. Though watching James as he makes a complete ass of himself in a desperate attempt at comedy is bad enough, there’s an entire subplot that involves the animals teaching Griffin how to pick up women, whether it’s walking with confidence like a bear, marking your territory with urine like a wolf, or throwing poo at your mate like a monkey. For the sake of the audience, Griffin only puts two of the suggestions to use.
Where the movie gets really weird, however, is with the animal characters. While most of them are played by actual animals and voiced by Hollywood vets like Adam Sandler, Sylvester Stallone and Cher, there’s a gorilla named Bernie (voiced by Nick Nolte) that’s played by someone in a suit. It’s a pretty impressive suit, mind you, but it still stands out next to the real-life animals. Of course, that’s nothing compared to what happens next. Griffin actually becomes friends with Bernie and takes him out for a night on the town under the pretense that they’re coming from a costume party, with the whole sequence consisting of the pair singing along to Flo Rida’s “Low,” dining at T.G.I. Friday’s, and Bernie slow dancing with some woman. The gaps in logic are just too big to ignore, and yet it’s only one of the ridiculously stupid events that transpire in the film.
As if it could possibly get any worse, the movie is way too long for its own good, filled with superfluous characters (including a pair of zoo workers played by Ken Jeong and Donnie Wahlberg) that never really pay off, and a romance between Griffin and the zoo’s resident veterinarian (Rosario Dawson) that is introduced so late into the story that it loses any credibility it might have otherwise had. Then again, just the mention of the word “credibility” when talking about “Zookeeper” is enough to make me giggle a little on the inside, because that’s how shockingly horrible this movie is. Kids may get a few laughs out of the talking animals, but any parent unfortunate enough to have to tag along might want to consider bringing a blindfold and some earplugs to ease the pain.
Single-Disc Blu-ray Review:
As if the movie itself wasn't embarassing enough, Sony has put together a collection of bonus material that serves as a reminder of just how bad it is. There are featurettes on everything from the film's cast and animal co-stars to the visual effects and stunts, a behind-the-scenes look at creating the animatronic gorilla, eight deleted scenes, a blooper reel, and a demo for the new PlayStation 3 game, "Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One."