Only in the movies. Only in the movies will an unemployed stammering fool be found dating a supermodel (“Transformers: Dark of the Moon“). Only in the movies will an underemployed fat guy be found dating a model and ultimately have two beautiful women fawning for him. This particular movie is Zookeeper. The fat guy is Kevin James. The two queens with bad taste are Rosario Dawson and Leslie Bibb.
But there is more to this incredibly formulaic “always be true to yourself” comedy — the animals in the Franklin Park Zoo talk! Yep, it’s the convergence of “Doctor Dolittle” and “Madagascar” that you’ve always dreamt of. In a nutshell, when the lions (voiced by Sylvester Stallone and Cher), the monkey (voiced by Adam Sandler, sounding like a cheap imitation of Gilbert Gottfried), the elephant (voiced by Judd Apatow) and the giraffe (voiced by Maya Rudolph) hear that their favorite zookeeper Griffin (James) needs help reapproaching the girl who rejected him years ago, Stephanie (Bibb), they break their strict code of silence to offer him advice.
And oh what mighty fine advice they give him. The bears — Jerome and Bruce (voiced by Jon Favreau and Faizon Love) — tell him to push his junk out and walk with bravado. He tries it and, predictably, it doesn’t go so well for him (that only works for the Zohan). Sebastian the Wolf (voiced by Bas Rutten) tells him pheromones are the key to attraction so James must mark his territory with piss. Griffin, against all common sense, does this too and, predictably, it doesn’t work in his favor either. The lioness tells him to make Stephanie jealous by parading a new girl at his hip. Women are always right. But in doing so he gets super comfy with resident zoo vet Carol (Dawson).
Yet in doing so, it leads up to one the funnier scenes in Zookeeper. I’ve noted it, because there aren’t many of them. In this one, Kevin James applies his physical comedy to aerial acrobatics a la Cirque du Soleil. It’s not only funny because he is the reigning king of prat falls and he crashes and burns in spectacular fashion, but more so because he looks so light and carefree flying above the heads of the bewildered wedding guests. The adults in the audience may also get a chuckle from the absurdity of the TGIF scenes where Gordon the gorilla (voiced by Nick Nolte) has a better time than a human has ever had in the mostly unimpressive food fast restaurant.
But I’d be remiss, if I didn’t note that Zookeeper is a movie meant for kids and not for people like me (a guy on the fast track to a hospice bed). The little ones will undoubtedly laugh at the funny voices coming out of the mouths of the many different animals and the general silliness of all the situations the out of luck animal tender finds himself in (the bicycle scene, in particular, will get the kids laughing).
I don’t think because it’s a family friendly flick, however, that that excuses the writing team of Nick Bakay, Rock Reuben, Kevin James, and David Ronn from putting little original thought into the movie (especially since two of the writers here — Bakay and James — came up with a relatively good concept with “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” together). I mean, what’s the point of Ken Jeong’s character Venom? And director Frank Coraci should’ve gotten more effort from his voice talent — most of their deliveries sound disinterested (especially Stallone).
But like I said, I’m not the target audience for Zookeeper, so you can take what I’ve said with a grain of salt. Or a clump of elephant poo.